Because this behavior won't end until we stand together and make it. #StopHarassment ~ What'cha Reading?

Because this behavior won’t end until we stand together and make it. #StopHarassment

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We usually don’t weigh in on situations like this. We’re a site that’s primarily staffed by people who don’t face these kinds of problems. And that’s exactly why we’re putting this story out there. If you see or hear about this type of behavior in the comic book industry stand up against it. That’s the only way it’s ever going to stop.  – Chuck Suffel Editor-in-Chief

 

It’s totally okay because, you know, the president does it!

By Anna Marie

I’m not going to talk about how ridiculous this election was and the choices made by half of this country. That’s a whole other post.

This post is about a particular incident that occurred between two creators at a West Coast convention this past August. Considering the current state of the country, and the misogynistic rhetoric that has been thrown around lately, I felt it was necessary to let the harassed in this matter speak out.

For the record, she is nervous about coming forward (and still is) because of fears over how this will impact her career. After speaking with several friends and colleagues, and mulling it over for a few months, she decided that the right thing to do is to speak up.

The harassed also knows that people will likely tell her that she should have been more aggressive in making this harasser know she wanted him to go away. She knows she may be opening herself up to more harassment. But ultimately, we’re both hoping that writing about this experience will open people’s eyes to how women are treated in comics rather than pile more harassment on her or anyone else.

That said, for the purpose of this article, the names of all involved (including the harasser) will be changed and marked with an asterisk. The reason for this is because Rich* (the harasser) is a well-known writer for The Big 2, as well as other publishers. Lynn* (the harassed) is a comics writer who is building her career.

This article is Lynn’s timeline with text messages to back up her claims. Some of the names in the text messages are redacted because they are projects that she’s actively working on and can’t announce yet.

Without further ado…This is the story, in Lynn’s own words.

 

It was the Friday of a three day show, and I was on the show floor early to set up. A man (who I later learned was Rich) approached me and struck up a conversation.

Apparently another creator had taken his table and he was confused as to whom he should talk to in order to rectify the situation. I knew Mike*, the man running the show, so I offered to call him. Mike answered the phone and told me that he would come to my table when he was done with his meeting.

So Rich hung around my table while I was setting up, and we chatted about this or that. He still didn’t give me his name. He played coy and told me that he knew who I was, and what a fan he was of my work, but I would have never heard of him. He downplayed the work he’s done in comics, and I just shrugged it off as the same self-deprecation that most of us writers have.

He offered to help me set up my table, and I thanked him, but told him I was fine. I’ve done this a million times before, so I had my own groove. We talked about writing comics and the different books I had worked on. We talked about how I also letter, edit, and design books, etc. He offered to get me lettering work for some books he was working on, so I gave him one of my cards.

While setting up, I reached for something and I guess the light hit my engagement ring and wedding band the right way and Rich said, “Oh…you’re married.” “Yep,” I replied. There was an awkward pause from him, and then he said, “Oh, well, I like a challenge.”

I was somewhat taken aback by that. I laughed it off and told him that I was happily married, but that I make a great wingman. Rich wasn’t interested in a wingman. He was interested in me.

Then he jokingly accused me of not really being married and having a fake engagement ring and wedding band. I showed him a photo of my husband and I from our wedding day on my phone. Rich took my phone, blew up the photo, cropping my husband out, leaving only me, and took a screen cap of it. “Could you email this to me?” he asked.

I took my phone back and laughed it off, again. I was still trying to process what was going on. Then Mike showed up and Rich introduced himself. It was then that I said, “I DO know who you are.” Rich just smiled. Mike and he went off to figure out the table situation, and I thought that was that. I was wrong.

Later that same day (Friday), Rich started texting me during the show. He said he was bored and he wanted to hang out with me. He asked me if I had dinner plans that night, and I said I was having dinner with my friend, Suze, who was coming in for the show.

Then he did something texted me a photo that was disturbing. It wasn’t obscene, like a photo of his privates or anything, but it was a photo of me, taken from behind my booth. It took me a moment to realize that Rich had snuck behind me at my table, taken a photo of me without my knowledge, and then texted me that photo. That creeped me out.

Throughout that Friday, we also exchanged benign texts about him working in LA or the weather. It wasn’t all harassment, but I guess that’s how these things work.

Apparently I had appeared “cranky” in one of my responses because Rich showed up at my table with a bottle of water and a chicken and rice bowl. “You’re cranky when you’re hungry,” he told me. I thanked him for the food, and he left. I offered to pay him for the food, but he refused. I appreciated that, but I learned it came with a price.

I called my husband during a lull in the show and let him know that Rich had been hitting on me. I made a joke about it, but Joe immediately Googled Rich’s name. “Watch out for him…He’s got a history of harassment.” Me being me, I told my him that I was fine and that I can take care of myself. I told Joe that I loved him and that it was going to be okay.

When Rich came by my table, again, I asked him about one of the harassment claims and he said people blow things out of proportion.

Toward the end of the show on that Friday, Suze came by my table to say hello. We made plans to meet after the show at a restaurant in the hotel connected to the convention hall. She left to run an errand and I started packing up my table.

Rich came by and asked where he and I were having dinner. I reminded him I already had plans with Suze. He said he didn’t believe me that Suze existed and that she was like “your boyfriend in Canada.” I rolled my eyes and started walking from my table. He jogged behind me and said, “I’ll walk out with you.”

As we were walking, he kept questioning me about Suze. Who was she? What did she look like? Was she single? When I appeared annoyed, he switched gears, asking how the show was. I told him it was okay, and gave him the usual, “It’s the first day. Sales were slow” line.

On the way to the restaurant, Rich had to stop by the bathroom. I said, “Bye,” and told him I wasn’t waiting for him. I had a date with Suze, and I didn’t want to be late.

I went to the restaurant, found Suze, and hugged her tightly. No sooner did my rear touch the seat than Rich was standing at our table. Suze looked confused. I was shocked. Suze said, “Can I help you?” Rich pointed at me and said, “I’m here for her.” I introduced him to Suze, and she made it clear his antics were not appreciated. I didn’t know what to do, so I did the polite thing and asked if he wanted to join us, but he said he had too much work to do and left. Both Suze and I were thankful for that.

We had our girls’ night dinner and enjoyed ourselves. We both went back to our rooms and made plans to see each other in the morning. I got back to my room and was getting ready for bed when the text messages from Rich started up again. All I can say is thank the maker he wasn’t at the same hotel as I was.

The next day (Saturday) I spent ignoring Rich. I ignored most of his texts and made sure to leave my table if I saw him coming by. He ambushed me telling me he needed to talk to Mike immediately because of some emergency issue with the con. I dialed Mike’s number and Rich took my phone and walked away. I was in shock that he’d do that and I didn’t say anything. He returned about 10 minutes later and gave me my phone back, thanking me.

Later in the day I was giving my sales pitch to a possible customer, Rich came by my table with a copy of an X-Men issue he had written in the 90s. Without saying a word, he took the comic out of the board and bag, signed it, and dropped it on my table. I was as confused as the customer. After Rich left, I joked to the customer that he had been hitting on me all weekend. The customer nervously laughed and told me to have a good show, leaving without buying anything.

I left the show early that night to meet up with Suze and some of her friends for dinner. One of them asked me how the show was. When I told him what had happened with Rich, he wanted to see the texts. I tried to make light of it all and he said, “Lynn, he’s hanging work over your head. This is definition of sexual harassment.”

Sunday came (the last day of the show), and there was a magnet left on my table from Rich. It was one of those things you get for a kid where it has the name of the city and the kid’s name on it. I put it away and didn’t think about it. He came by later in the day and asked me if I got his present. I was cold to him. I ignored his texts, even when he said he “wanted his friend back.”

When we were breaking down at the end of the show, Rich came by to say goodbye. I kept my hands in my pockets and just said, “bye.” I had had it. I was tired, embarrassed, and, sadly, I had felt guilty, as if I had led him on. I saw him in the lobby of the hotel later on, and I was tempted to apologize to him, but then I thought, “Why? What did I do wrong?” I didn’t say a word to him.

Later that night, the panic set in. Would I not get work because he badmouthed me? Would he even bother to do so? Should I never tell anyone again? What would happen if I did tell someone? Would I get scolded for not standing up for myself? I went home and did my best to forget everything that happened.

Weeks went by, and I thought this whole episode was behind me until just before New York Comic Con. Rich randomly reached out via text and asked me about co-writing a property with him. I asked for the weekend to think about it. I spoke to friends and colleagues, and most of them told me that if I needed the work to think about taking it, but make sure that I set ground rules. Needing the work/money was something that weighed heavily on me. Then I had my husband read the texts between Rich and I from the convention weeks earlier. After that, Joe was vehemently against me working with Rich. I texted Rich back at the end of the weekend and told him thank you but no thank you. He was very adamant about helping me get work, while peppering the texts with things like, “Networking is not your thang” and “Even though you are married and boring I would like to see you succeed.” He kept negging me while trying to keep himself relevant. It was so frustrating.

I panicked again, thinking that I’d lose work from it, but it was beyond that. I felt like if he couldn’t sexually harass me, he’d put me down so I’d come running to him for work. That’s not right either. So at NYCC this year, I was on high alert because Rich wasn’t listed at any table, but his text messages made it sound as if he was going to be at the show. I showed his photo to my husband and brother who were manning my table when I wasn’t there, and Rich didn’t make an appearance, to my knowledge.

 

And that is Lynn’s account. Why did she decide to come out about this? Because this stuff goes on all the time in comics, and someone has to say something about it. She admits that she feels guilty about the situation. Lynn fully admits that she feels she brought it on herself, somehow, by being nice to him. She admits that she laughed his advances off too much because she thought she was being oversensitive and didn’t want to be a victim. It’s something a lot of victims of harassment feel.

She told me she was embarrassed for not punching in him the face and telling him to go to Hell. It’s one thing to deal with a harassing fan, but when another creator with connections is harassing, it’s a much harder situation to deal with.

Lynn does worry that her career prospects are jeopardized because of speaking out about how Rich treated her. Will editors think she’s “difficult” or a “crybaby?” This was a big decision for her, and it was only after a lot of reflection did she contact me with this. Ultimately, she wants to empower other creators to feel free to speak out about their experiences, because this behavior is not okay.

Both of us hope that publishers will take notice of Rich’s behavior, but the comics community at large knows this is unlikely. Considering how most publishers have treated other serial harassers, this incident will just fly under the radar with them, and that’s the continued problem.

Thanks to the WhatchaReading.com crew for letting Lynn tell her story.

Editor’s Note: And to further drive home just how insane this whole situation was, here are those texts Lynn told us about.

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