How we got here:
I responded in a Twitter thread to another pro, giving my account of a story from my past as a show of defense. That this thread was then picked up by Bleeding Cool and has sparked another, larger conversation about the state of comic books today is more important here. But I also did take to Twitter again to make a very public statement after my inbox was filled with accounts from other women who had found themselves in my same position. My story was not an isolated incident. Not by a long shot. I knew I’d catch some heat for being so honest, but I stand by my decision to speak frankly, in anger. For the ladies who can’t talk about it, and for the gents who’ve been watching it occur for years, but also to clear the air:
I’ve forgiven Brian years ago for the following story. My eventual anger was due to the accounts being given to me as a result of the Bleeding Cool article. I’ve moved on from what he did. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with defending someone else on social media. My followers already knew the story. As did my husband and friends. (According to my inbox this is just a well known fact, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.) I never asked for a boycott, or blacklisting, as I am being accused. I actually spoke very openly about the opposite. About this being a systemic problem in need of addressing. So let me be very frank in repeating what I said openly before.
Brian Wood has every right to be a part of comics. To make books and make a living unhindered. I believe that. I also believe his behavior is a symptom of a much bigger disease. A disease of silence, where you go along to get along. And you never say anything about your experiences because the harm to yourself and perhaps to others will be monumental. That’s not okay. And it has to change.
It was 2007 SDCC after hours, and I was trying very hard to pitch a book with a writer friend all day, while also pitching my portfolio. I had just had a gallery published in Heavy Metal magazine and was hoping to forge a career.
I wandered up to the Marriott to wait outside for said friend to show so we could meet up and talk about the day. Didn’t realize I wandered into the center of an indoor/outdoor bar party full of professionals and editors.
Brian Wood found me standing there in the crowd. He had a drink in one hand, and seemed slightly buzzed. I felt I knew Brian. He’d been talking to me on myspace for months, and was very nice to me online, about my art. Even going so far as to say he believed in me, and that I could go far. Even saying he might like to see more. I was happy when he approached me and introduced himself. Hopeful even,
I was less happy when he began to come on to me. He got very close to me and asked if he could buy me a drink. He told me I was beautiful, and let me know he had seen my photos of costuming on my myspace and that I should be thankful he was interested in me beyond that. He got graphic. I chided him and pointed to the ring on his finger. I let him know it wasn’t cool. He brought up his child. I can’t recall now if it was a pregnancy or a brand new birth. Only that it made my stomach drop into my shoes when he talked about it and I said very specifically, “Dude you’re somebody’s DAD. What are you doing, man?”
He said he didn’t know. But then he kept doing it. He blamed my beauty. He blamed my proximity. He blamed our online conversations. I left, as gently as I could. Because everyone makes mistakes. He made sure to let me know at the end of it that he loved my work, and still wanted to see more.
I went inside and found a lounge chair on the other side of the lobby, away from the bar. I set up my drawing stuff. Friends came. They sat on the couch across from me and we talked while I drew. Normal after hours stuff for me. Fun stuff.
Brian approached from my left, fiddling with a camcorder in his hands. He took a seat with us and we all said hello to him. We all tried to include him in the flow of conversation. He would grunt, or give us a dead pan expression like we were idiots. It was alarming to say the least. We even exchanged looks with each other wondering what was wrong with him. He just kept fiddling with his camcorder, and his drink.
Eventually he made my friends so uncomfortable that they cleared out. I bid them goodbye and kept right on drawing. I wasn’t afraid of Brian. Weirded out maybe. But not afraid. Because he’d made a point of talking to me about comics, and my chances at a career, for months. I felt he was far more interested in me as a professional peer than as anything else. Naive? Yes. Especially now that I know this was his m.o. And I wasn’t the only one.
I then engaged him in polite, friendly conversation. Or attempted to. After all, we were buds in my mind. Online pals. He reached out and asked to see the piece I was working on. He asked me questions about it. But when I answered he would just stare at my face and then not respond. Then he would go back to his camcorder. It was weird. It was slightly creepy. But for a good 20 minutes it went on like this, with me responding to his questions, and talking about work, and him trailing off into silence. Finally he told me he didn’t want to talk about work. That his job was “kind of dumb” and he focused on it all day so didn’t want to do it now.
I looked at him sidelong, and asked what he DID want to talk about. He said he wanted to get to know me better. I told him I was good where I was. That we could talk right there in the lobby. That I had work to do. He said I could bring the work up to his hotel room. That we could talk about it there. We went back and forth like this for quite awhile. His voice low and conspiratorial, mine full of feigned politeness.
This was one of my very favorite writers. I didn’t want to make him mad. He knew I didn’t want to piss him off. He knew how badly I wanted a spot in comics. We’d discussed it, at length, online.
Was this “my chance”?
I still don’t know because I began to gather up my things to make a break for it. I told him thanks but no thanks again and again. He stopped me, touching my shoulders, asking me to stay. Then he took one of my pens and wrote his room number on a piece of my artwork. He told me he just had a headache from the noise of the party he’d just been to and he wanted to lay down. But that he would wait for me, and we could discuss my work, the way I wanted. Then he left.
My boyfriend showed, helped me gather my things. And we left.
Next day I walked around the floor with my writer partner, and we passed by a company booth with one side table full of a row of our heroes. Brian was dead center. He saw me before I could duck into the crowd and shouted my name. I ignored him. He shouted again. I grabbed my friend’s elbow and steered him past the booth, and the shouting man. I nodded to Brian as we moved past, a smile across my face (or I hoped it was) and nodded at him like a broken bobble head. I didn’t know what else to do. Everyone was looking at me. Brian then shouted to ask where I’d gone the night before. That he’d waited until 3am for me before he realized I was standing him up.
See, the problem is far more insidious and quiet than a big bad villain rubbing his mustaches and trying to get poor little girls to go to bed with him. It’s bigger than one man and one girl who nobody knows from Adam. Too many women have a story like mine. Not just about Brian but about all kinds of men in the comic book industry.
And I’m going to come right out and give Brian the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he has no clue that what he did was wrong. Maybe it was so subtle, even to him, that he just can’t see himself in that light. But we did talk about the incident post SDCC. That was when he was rather mean to me. It got ugly. So ugly I showed the messages to my boyfriend in horror. I called Brian out on it and asked for an apology. He gave one. Half hearted at best, but he gave one. Then he promised we were still cool. And never spoke to me again.
Which is fine. Totally kosher. I took it on the chin. I tried to learn from it. But it was always one of those things that stuck in my craw. And it made me very watchful any time a professional man wanted to get close to me for any reason.
See, that’s all you can do in this business. I just went quiet on it for years because I was told not to be the one to rock the boat. That no one would ever work with me if I did. That the backlash against me would be monumental. That I would be called a liar, and no one would ever support me. All true.
In closing: I don’t hate him. I wish him well, and I wish his coworkers well. I mean that. Sincerely. They are all skilled, talented individuals. And taking money away from comics via a boycott does not help the medium we all love.
But this really does need to stop. This ease with which folks reach out to silence women who bring it up. This immediate jump to, “She’s nuts. She wants attention. She’s unstable.” I repeat my message from Twitter: The men in this industry have the power to change things. Brian being one of them, actually.
My account is above, in detail, for anyone who wants to see how the power play can be subtle, and scary, and wrong all at the same time. Again, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt here and say maybe he really just has no clue that his behavior was wrong, or could have such a lasting affect on someone who once looked up to him. I can believe that. And I can believe a lot of men reading this, in positions like Brian’s, might feel the same way.
So how about we use this opportunity to link arms and work towards finding ways to fix this? Open discussions, and a devotion to never letting such behavior stand. Forgiveness for those men who can admit the wrong doing and want to make a change. Togetherness. One tribe. One family.
Because I think everyone reading this wants the same thing. For those funny books we grew up on to be a thriving, healthy modern business full of all kinds of creative people and personalities.