Clifford Meth is an American writer, editor, recently for IDW Publishing, and is publisher of his own imprint Aardwolf Publishing. He is the author of Comic Book Babylon and a long-time advocate for comics veterans.
At the weekend, comics historian Arlen Schumer courted controversy after a video showing his behaviour at San Diego Comic Fest during the end of a curtailed panel, went viral. Clifford has issued this open letter to Schumer, which landed on Bleeding Cool’s desk. It reads:
To Err is Arlen
We need to forgive Arlen. After a poor night’s sleep, that’s what I genuinely believe.
I slept poorly because I spent far too long reading about the aftermath of Arlen’s public faux pas. The self-styled taste-maker and “comics historian” was caught on video at San Diego Comic Fest 2019 cursing out a volunteer who’d arrived to note that a lecture had gone into overtime. It’s one of those uncomfortable scenes, like a train wreck, that human beings can’t turn away from.
Comics fandom, always a small world, was made smaller by the internet. Now we know everyone’s business. If you spend enough time convention-hopping or just on Facebook, you eventually meet all the characters. The more colorful ones can’t be avoided, from convention saints like Batton Lash to once-big-name artists who take money but “forget” to deliver commissions. They’re all out there.
Arlen has been out there a long time. He is not a friend of mine.
I first encountered Arlen when he asked to be part of a Gene Colan memorial panel that I was hosting at New York ComicCon. My panelists were Walt Simonson, David Lloyd, and Don McGregor. I didn’t think Arlen (who I’d never heard of) was suitable. He argued otherwise but I was firm.
Subsequently, I watched him insinuate himself into copious Facebook group conversations. He badgered numerous individuals of my acquaintance, many of them comics professionals, then claimed victory in wars of attrition when others walked away. His reasons for warring? Someone praised Stan Lee. Or someone else liked Neal Adams’ current artwork. Or the work of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez or Don Heck or any number of artists that our “historian” deemed unworthy of admiration. These vision quests were not launched in the name of scholarship. Neither were they sophomoric, good-natured screeds along the lines of, “Batman would kick Superman’s ass.” They were bile.
I penned a piece called, “An Apology for Arlen Schumer From the Rest of the Jews,” a wry, impetuous musing that I only shared with Aardwolf Publishing’s Jim Reeber. I got my laughs, but then thought better of it and decided not to publish it and pour salt on the wound of someone who was so obviously suffering. And that’s the point.
No one behaves this way unless they are in pain. Of course, I can’t state that unequivocally, but as a certified sh-thouse psychologist, that’s my best guess.
So I sincerely apologize to Arlen for that piece. And for being dismissive on our first encounter. I offer this apology in all sincerity.
More, I make this apology publicly in the hopes that Arlen sees how easy it is. Because I suspect he has a lot of apologizing to do, and the sooner he gets going the better. I believe G-d created forgiveness before He created the world, but making amends is vital to the process.
Everyone in the comics community has something in common. Either we create comics or we read comics, or we once read them. That means we’re better than everyone else. Our childhood still holds on by two staples. And if we’re better than everyone else, then we have an obligation to set the right example. “With great power,” you know.
So I personally forgive you, Arlen. I think you’ve been a nasty, pompous, self-important, bloviating bully. But nobody’s perfect.
More, I think you can turn it around and do everybody a favor at the same time. Imagine how good it would be if countless people forgave you for the things you’ve said or done. What merit you would bring to the world!
You can go on being a great example of a bad example, or begin the process and watch how quickly things change. I emailed you this advice privately years ago. I tell you publicly now because you are not the only one who needs to hear it. I need to hear it, too.
It’s a short life. We’re here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is. You’ve been horrible. So fix it.
Charles Manson walks into a room and says, “Is it hot in here, or am I crazy?”
It’s both, boychik.
I asked Arlen if he had any thoughts, he replied,
I loved playing football with my friends when I was a kid; one my favorite ancillary football games was called “piling on,” aka “pick up & slaughter,” in which whoever had the ball was “slaughtered,” or “piled on.” Guess Meth liked that too!