Harassment And Being The Superhero In Our Own Story

So, the Brian-Wood-and-other-guys stories continue to emerge as more people, given courage by the current situation and now happy, or happier to tell their stories with or without names.

Anne Scherbina (previously Anne Rogers), who worked at DC in Events & Retailer Services in the early 2000s, elaborates on her experiences.

Not long after that walk, Mr. Wood came up to the offices. I’d never seen him on my floor before, but it was not unheard of. Sales & marketing occupied the same floor as DCU Editorial. Mr. Wood swung by my office unexpectedly, and we exchanged hellos. After he had left, I got an IM from Brian, saying he hadn’t expected to come by. I joked that it was a shame he couldn’t stay, as I could have “shown him the storeroom”.  It was just a joke, because of course we had established that nothing inappropriate was ever going to happen.

Later in the day, I was alerted to a rumor posted on Lying in the Gutters. The rumor said that the word was the girls at DC retailer services were giving out a lot more than posters in the storeroom. I was shocked. I was hurt. I was embarrassed. And I couldn’t do anything. I asked my employers at DC if I could say anything to refute it, since everybody knew that I was the only person in that position, but they said no, it would blow over. It did. No one talked about it online, or called me a slut or even said anything to me directly. But the suspicion was there. The subject had been raised in the office and now it was in people’s minds. My job didn’t change, but I was not given any new responsibilities. I was observed. I found printouts of my online posts in the office printer.

It does now start to feel like a plaster being pulled ever so slowly, with new stories every day. But it’s also given older stories about other people the change to be re-read and reassessed in this context. Such as IDW comics writer, Mariah Huehner;

They started asking me what I was so intent about, why was I so serious, what was I doing at SDCC, was I a friend of someone there. I said, no, I’m an editor. This was a mistake as they were then curious about why a girl worked in comics. They moved closer. I backed up, but there wasn’t anywhere to go. I could tell they had been drinking, likely a lot, and for some reason I felt compelled to be…nice. I was scared to be mean or just get away, afraid they’d get mad or rough. I felt like I was stuck to the sidewalk. One of them men reached out and touched the front of my jacket, telling me I looked like a Tim Burton character. He tried to run his hand down the stripes and that’s when I unfroze. All I could think of to do, because for whatever reason I just couldn’t yell, I said…oh, I see some people I know, bye. And I quickly moved away. I had to squeeze myself against the window and duck. I practically ran to open the door and went up to my hotel room where I proceeded to have a very hard time sleeping.

There was a time when one woman, dating a major comic writer was openly groped by her boyfriend’s editor in the foyer of a comic convention hotel. Charles Brownstein and Taki Soma. And there was Valerie D’Orazio‘s experiences with a senior employee at DC Comics when she was a junior editor, and how that touched on Doran’s experience, thinly fictionalised. And yes, the way these things are so often dismissed.

Before I knew it, I marched into the office of my other boss, the “sensitive” one, and closed the door.

“Is it true?!” I blurted out, the angry tone of my voice surprising me.

“Is what true?”

“Ned.”

There were pictures of Ned covering my boss’s desk — a grandfatherly fellow with wise old eyes and an unassuming grin.

“What about Ned?”

“The thing about him groping Melia Bratton.”

My boss flinched for a second, then took a breath and said,

“Melia…she’s a nice woman, but very confused. Sexually confused.”

“But is there any truth to her story?”

“Yes and no.”

“I mean…did he touch her or not?”

“I’m sure Melia misinterpreted things. And Ned…it’s like OJ.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Who knows what really happened?”

“Well…I have to say that working on this tribute for Ned has kind made me uncomfortable now. Because I kind of believe Melia. Because of what’s happening with (BLEEEEEP!!!!).”

“Is he still bothering you?”

And from when she was younger;

I felt a certain degree of “protection” from my boss, that kept unwanted “admirers,” mostly adults and a few who were middle-aged, at bay.

So when he told me in private that I sexually aroused him, that I made him “hard,” I was completely devastated. I cried.

My boss acted like he didn’t understand why I was crying. He said he assumed that as a “single girl living by herself” that I was “open to this sort of thing.” Mind you, he was a friend of my dad. But really, considering the caliber of person that frequented his store, was this scumbaggery such a big surprise? As a naive teen with no parental supervision and no security, the answer is — yes, it was a complete surprise. This guy was like my uncle.

That’s when Valerie was sixteen. There are so many of these stories, these are just a few, and these are just some that make it out into the open.

But it’s relatively easy writing about other people. What about me? I’ve already been in touch with Anne to apologise for my role in the story she mentioned above. But it got me thinking.

There used to be a woman tangentially related to the comics industry who I saw at comic conventions decades ago and I clearly had a thing for. I told myself that circumstances just didn’t work out over the years and we never got together, but it got me thinking – what exactly did I do? How far did I push? Am I another story? So I’ve in got touch, to find out exactly how much of a dick I was, and to apologise if I need to. I’ve also checked in with other women over the years, and I don’t seem to have anything to worry about. So far.

But it might not be such a bad thing if a number of men in comics just had a think about their behaviour over the years. You never know what might tumble out. And circumstances might warrant an apology and a reappraisal of one’s own actions. Everyone is the hero of their story and willing to use whatever justifications to maintain that myth. And, in the comics industry, we’re all the superhero of our own story. Maybe it’s time we started behaving like it.

And the future fear of being exposed for some, may not be such a bad thing.