Comic publisher Dynamite Entertainment has pulled its latest variant cover after it was discovered it came from Comicsgate supporters, leading several writers and artists, including Â writerÂ Mark Russell, to say they would no longer work with the publisher. The cover has since been cancelled but the company is still in hot water over its ties to the group.
Comicsgate, for those blissfully unaware, is yet another loosely organised campaign of people railing against what they see as “forced diversity“ in the industry. It, of course, also happens to involve a lot of online harassment of progressive creators.
Dynamite ” the publisher behind titles like Red Sonja, Vampirella, The Boys, and more ” faced a wave of criticism over the weekend for one of its Indiegogo limited-edition cover campaigns for writer Tom Sniegoski and artist Michael Sta. Maria’s Vengeance of Vampirella #1. The variant, “Cecil’s Big Cover” by artist Donal DeLay, features Red Sonja and Vampirella creating what the campaign calls a “badass sandwich” around some guy named Cecil, who you might not recognise. He’s a character from the indie comic Cash Grab, written by YouTuber Cecil Jones with art by DeLay. It’s an unpleasant comic book ” both in content and quality ” but it was largely funded by Comicsgate supporters. In addition, Jones and DeLay each have a history of engaging in online harassment, particularly against women in the comic book industry.
Several writers and artists, like the aforementioned Russell, Karla Pacheco (Bettie Page), Matt Miner (GWAR: Orgasmageddon), and Christian Ward (Red Sonja), and Tony Lee said they will no longer continue working with Dynamite so long as the company continues to work with Comicsgate supporters. Miner said he’s pulled the next GWAR series, and Russell tweeted that he’s completed work on Red Sonja #24, which concludes his obligations to the publisher. In a statement, he cited Comicsgate’s history of harassment against women, people of colour, and LGBTQ creators as a big reason for his exit. He and others criticised Dynamite’s ongoing relationship with Comicsgate supporters, along with the company’s refusal to address larger problems within the company. Some of them declared no intention to return until they see what Pacheco called “drastic change in company management.”
Online harassment is a systemic problem in the industry, but one that hits close to home in this case: Jones, who goes by “Cecil Says” on YouTube, has targeted comic book writer Gail Simone, who’s worked on Dynamite’s Red Sonja series. Simone has not released a statement yet, saying she’s still processing the situation.
I don’t know if this is the right move, or even a very smart one, but it’s what my conscience requires. Comicsgate is a hate group with a long history of harassment, particularly of women and LGBTQ creators. Don’t try to convince me that they’re not. I’ve seen it for myself. 3/
— Mark Russell (@Manruss) July 19, 2020
This isn’t the only time Dynamite Entertainment has hedged its bets with Comicsgate. For example, last year the publisher stood back as Comicsgate supporter Ethan Van Sciver commissioned his own crossover covers that combined Dynamite’s characters with those from Cyberfrog: Blood Honey, Van Sciver’s indie comic. In addition, one of the other limited-edition variants Dynamite is still promoting comes from artist and YouTuber Mindy Wheeler, a self-described conservative who has distanced herself from Comicsgate but was describing sexual assault survivors in the comics industry as “whores“ as recently as last week. We’ve reached out to Dynamite for comment on this.
Much of the criticism from creators and fans has been directed toward Dynamite Entertainment CEO Nick Barrucci specifically, who has continued to support Van Sciver (and allegedly other Comicsgate creators) and decried “cancel culture” as one of the biggest threats to the industry in his keynote speech from the ComicsPRO Comic Industry Conference in February. It’s also important to note that Dynamite was the only prominent comic book company that did not show support for the Black Lives Matter protests last month, instead only sharing crowdfunding campaigns for comic book stores that had been looted in the protests’ early days.
"In speaking with Cecil, neither one of us realized the cover would be so polarizing. We discussed and are not moving forward with the cover or the campaign." – Nick Barrucci, CEO & Publisher of Dynamite
— DynamiteComics (@DynamiteComics) July 19, 2020
In a public statement, Barrucci said he and Jones had no idea the cover would be “so polarising,” and have decided not to move forward with it. The Indiegogo fundraising campaign for “Cecil’s Big Cover” was still active several hours later, having raised over $US9,000 ($12,846), but was pulled sometime this morning after Gizmodo emailed Dynamite for comment. The company hasn’t responded to Gizmodo as of yet but said in a statement on the Indiegogo page that all orders would be cancelled and refunded. We’ll update should we hear back.