Mangels On the Horse

Andy Mangels writes:

    Following the last two weeks’ posts regarding how/why writers do/don’t get work, whether homophobia plays any part in the decision for myself or other gay creators, and the perceived climate of homophobia at Dark Horse, I’d like to clarify a few points, make an apology, and report on what has come since.

First, the statement I made about “the homophobic crew at Dark Horse” could — and should — have been stated differently. By making such a blanket statement, I have painted many people with a brush that should have better been reserved for a few – or for the perceptions of actions of a few.

Foremost, I would like to state publicly, and for the record, that Mike Richardson, the founder, publisher, and president of Dark Horse Comics (and Hollywood’s Dark Horse Entertainment), has always treated me with respect.

Mike gave me my first comic book store job at Pegasus Books when I was 18, and forgave several memorable goofs while I was an employee; he also neutrally gave me advice when I was trying to deny my homosexuality and fit into a religious (Mormon) lifestyle. After I came out of the closet, he continued to be respectful of me, and even interceded in a case where a store manager was harassing me due to my sexual orientation.

Mike did try to engender some caution in me when dealing with others about my being gay — and issues of sensitivity on both sides — which, at the time, I took as a slight form of disapproval. However, Mike did invite me and my partner to his home for a Christmas dinner, and we have been invited me mutually beneficial information (resulting in article assignments for me and publicity for his company).

By making the blanket statement about the “Dark Horse crew,” I inadvertently disparaged Mike and others of his employees, many of whom are wonderful, tolerant, and open-minded people (and some of whom have become more open-minded through working with a diverse crew). My choice of words was hasty and broad, and for those who I mischaracterized — including Mike — I make a public apology.

As the other people who responded last week — and the Just Out article — showed, there have been past actions by some employees which have resulted in at least a perception of homophobia within Dark Horse. That perception is now being adressed.

The Dark Horse employee handbook formally forbids discrimination or harassment on any legal fronts — including sexual orientation. While it is impossible to stop every form of comment, joke, or overtly discriminatory action, Mike has apparently tried to make sure that such actions are not sanctioned within his company, and disciplinary actions — ranging from verbal reprimands to sensitivity counseling — have resulted.

On Thursday the 5th, I met with Mike in his offices at Dark Horse, to discuss the situation and the perceived climate of homophobia which several people had noted. During the meeting, we had an open and fruitful expression of ideas and concerns. Mike wanted to make it clear to me that Dark Horse as a company — and himself as its head honcho — do not tolerate anti-gay harassment. We also discussed the probability that a lot has changed in employee and managerial feelings in the last decade or so; the perceived feelings that resulted from Zach Heusinkveld’s firing and Jennie Bricker’s leaving gained hold over four years ago, but today’s inter-office climate is more politically and socially aware.

I know that Mike has taken the previously-identified perceptions very seriously, and is already investigating among the Dark Horse staff, to make sure that no one feels discomfort or harassment. I have faith that he will continue to display the kind of sensitivity and respect for others which he has accorded me over the years.

It is my hope that this whole “affair” will lead to further dialogue — at Dark Horse and other comic companies — regarding diversity, prejudice, intolerance, harassment and other negatives which make the work and/or freelance environment a difficult place to stay.

After all, with all the other problems besetting the comic book world, the battles should be fought to make the books better, make sales stronger, and make the creators and readers happier. . . no matter what their skin color or with whom they sleep.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 8 Out of 10


But It’s Not Just Dark Horse

On a related point, an ex-employee of another comics company wrote to me in response to last week’s column, saying:

    Been getting a kick outta yer poofters in funny books discussions. God knows it had to Andy to open Pandora’s box!

I find comics in general to be a very homophobic environment. I worked for a major comics publisher and I (as a gay male) suffered many prejudices from the small (Editors of who can’t remove the word ‘faggy’ from their vocabuary) to the large (reporting to a homophobic catholic type who used every opportunity to act out and condescend).

I found an inequity in the ‘straight’ way of seeing things vs. the ‘gay’ way. Two high ranking persons there used every opportunity to call out whenever one of their kids literally stubbed their toes. Neither of them ever worked a five day week that I could see. When my partner of 13 years was in an auto wreck than smashed half our car I had to “nail down everything I could and then leave”. When my partner was running a 103 drgree temperature and had no one to take him to the doctor I had to stick around. That was the day they let me go. A great ‘thank you’ after working there for a decade.

Proving it is the hard part. The environments that exist has been somewhat sensitized enough that words like ‘jew’ or ‘nigger’ are unnacceptable. I wish we could saw the same for word like ‘fag’ or ‘homo’.

Keep up the good work.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 7 Out Of 10


Crying Wolfman

After his recent mention in All the Rage about working for Wildstorm, Marv Wolfman writes:

      I’m doing two books for Wildstorm who have been absolutely wonderful to me. The first is

Farscape

      based on the SF TV show. I was a huge fan of the show so working on it is great. I’m not doing adaptations but original stories. What I like about

Farscape

    is there is definite conflict on the show between the major characters and their universe. The characters themselves are interesting and all have backstories worth developing. Finally, unlike other SF shows, you don’t have to have a happy ending. And I don’t in the first two parter.

I’m not sure if they’ve talked about the second book so for the moment I’ll keep mum.

Time for me to start digging, perhaps?

This Has A Rumour Value Of 8 Out Of 10


Byrne At The Touch

John Byrne has been speaking out on the Unofficial John Byrne Fan Site.

Under the title “Weasles R Us,” used to describe Marvel and Bill Jemas, Byrne has attacked the latter for saying that X-Men: The Hidden Years was cancelled because it had nothing to say and was the worst selling book in X-Men history. Byrne compares this with what he sees as no Marvel book selling more than 100,000 and with Hidden Years selling 40-45,000, the same amount the Fantastic Four sold under him when Uncanny X-Men was selling ten times that. And he makes note of the fact that half Marvel’s books sold less than Hidden Years.

He then wondered if Marvels’ low sales, worse than ever before, make Bill Jemas the worst Marvel president in history?

This one could run and run, folks!

This Has A Ranting Value Of 7 Out Of 10


Loving The Ellison

During a discussion about Harlan Ellison’s legal case, Johnny Bahamas posted to the Warren Ellis Delphi Forum, recalling his time working at Marvel:

    My memory of Harlan Ellison is as follows: Some number of years ago, I was a virginal 17 year old intern at Marvel Comics, working in the Direct Sales department, and I was there late on night making photocopies of increasing size of Psylockes boobies as rendered by Jim Lee. The phone rings, and since it was about seven o’clock, nobody was there but us chickens. I answered the phone and a man in a very brisk tone promptly introduced himself as Harlan Ellison, and could I please mail him his Hulk and Wolverine poster?

Not having the slightest fucking clue what he was talking about, and only vaguely sure who he was, I asked him to repeat himself if he didn’t mind. Mistake.

He berated me with a litany of expletives that would make the boys on The Sopranos blush. Who was I, how long had I been working at Marvel, why was I trying to dick him around—the usual routine.

I finally got out of him that as a result of some lawsuit previously filed, he gets a copy of every single item Marvel produces. And when he saw this poster in some store, he realized he didn’t have it, and he was owed it so he wanted it–whether or not he liked it, which in this particular case he didn’t.

He also had a list of about fifteen various back issues from various titles that he hadn’t recieved over the last three years or so, could I be a good boy and go fetch them? Like they were lying around, waiting for him to call. Like Marvel even held on to back issues in the pre-Jemas/limited-overprinting-to-fuel-collectability days. Please. And yeah, he knew what time it was, he’d call when he damn well pleased. For real!

I never sent him his shit, mainly cause I didn’t have any of it, and my bosses laughed when I told him. I kept his address he gave me, and on my last day, a couple of years later, as part of four “secret missions” I fulfilled, I mailed him a huge package including some used polybags from the Midnight Sons crossover, promo posters for the Heavy Hitters line from Epic (lots of repeats), and torn-off covers (that was how stores returned oversubs) from some of Marvel UK’s greatest titles, including Motormouth and Death’s Head II.

Hope he liked it, he never called me to let me know.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 4 Out Of 10


Burning Bright

About the next Alan Moore CD, Tyger Tyger, this message was passed from Steven Severin’s recording label RE, saying:

“Steven will pop into the studio on Good Friday to oversee the completion of the new Alan Moore/Tim Perkins opus provisionally entitled “Tygers of Wrath’. This will be a studio reconstruction of the recent live ritual @ the Purcell rooms back in February. We are hoping to release the CD in the autumn possibly with the inclusion of John Coulthart’s movie footage.”

This Has A Rumour Value Of 7 Out Of 10


Friends of Lea

In response to the Creators Behaving Badly column a few weeks back, specifically the blind item (what happened to those?) about a creator not accepting a Friends Of Lulu award because they were having a lap dance at the time, Rumble Girls creator Lea Hernandez wrote about the group dedicated to increasing access to comics for women and women creators, at conventions, on the Warren Ellis Delphi Forum:

    I’ve seen Lulu’s flex in matters of sex in action with my own eyes. A Lulu at the table in 1998 wouldn’t display CHASSIS with the Adam Hughes cover and made comments about it, cusing the publisher what I would describe as hurt and embarrassment. (I helped her display it Hughes cover out and at eye level when backs were turned.) The same year they wanted a very minor talent with a very bad comic at the booth. Said minor talent (not a comics creator by avocation, in fact not even the creator of her comic AT ALL) was know for flashing panties and skin at appearances. But, I was told, that would “bring people in”.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 6 Out Of 10


Fandom Turned Against Itself

The Fuckedcompany Message Boards have been in overdrive this week, as employees and exemployees of Fandom have been coming out to talk about the company. As Fandom messageboards have been reported to have wiped much critical comment, Fuckedcompany has become the core for this discussion. A general theme of people on the East Coast and the West Coast in open war between each other with the fandom domain workers, of Fanatics, caught in the middle seemed to emerge, the battles between Fandom high-ups Chip Meyers and Mark Young, but here are some of the choicier messages.

Michael Kersey (who runs the 007 Fandomain, 007Forever:

    I was stunned to see free lancers working at Fandom, since it seemed almost diametrically opposed to the philosophy of Fandom. It didn’t affect me and my James Bond site much, but the X-Men and X-Files routinely got covered by the free lancers. To make matters worse, they would make mistakes most core fans would be able to spot a mile away. Sometimes they would not even link to the individual domains when they wrote the article…

Sadly, almost from the get go, we Fanatics had to defend ourselves from Freelancers getting in the way of our doing our job. Once they were out of the way, a new thorn arose. We had one particular loose cannon (a fellow Fanatic) trying to get Fandom to ditch four of the other Fan Domains so he could cover them exclusively. It finally got to the point where some weren’t even on speaking terms with him and formal complaints were about to be filed, but when the bankruptcy news hit, it was a moot point.

Eric J. Moreels (who runs the X-Men fandomain, X-Fan):

    It didn’t equate to $$$ because whilst the Fandomains bought the traffic in to Fandom, half the time the store never had anything in stock that was of interest to said visitors. Fandom has a Videogames domain, but did the shop carry videogames? No. Fandom has an X-Files domain, but did the shop allow for pre-orders on the DVD boxed sets? No. That’s hardly the fanatics’ fault!…

It’s just a shame Fandom didn’t listen to us fanatics during those marketing meetings we had last year. Tons of suggestions and ideas thrown around, but from what I know nothing much came of it, if anything.

Fandomania:

    Blunder One – Make east coast the fulfilment center. Build everything in west coast. After the acquisition of AU, Fandom wanted to make east coast to function only as the shipper of the products they sell. AU was not much of a company but had editorial, marketing, web team, IT staff, merchandizing, graphics, accounting, purchasing, customer service, warehouse, etc. A company. Fandom had 14 (12 had VP titles) and AU had 110+ but no VP. So Fandom (Chip) had a plan. “We can’t build a company overnight so offer AU management to move to California.“ First batch of people were invited to see Fandom HQ. This was Jan 2000. They did the show and dance. Dinner, lunch, realtor… Fandom is great. We are in Santa Monica. They were allowed to bring their spouses. But they needed to make a decision in 2 weeks. Answer in 2 weeks or lose your job…

While this was happening, the upper management was able to persuade Mark that maybe and perhaps it is not necessary to move people over the west coast. And rest is history. Why did this happen? Chip had a vision of creating a mighty empire in west coast. Redundant positions had to be removed from the east. But he wanted to remove it before creating a foundation in the west.

Blunder Two ? Fandom Auctions..
This was Chip’s baby. After the employee move episode, Chip was responsible for west coast operations only. Auctions went up March(?) 2000. To spice-up the grand opening, instead of waiting for fans to auction-off, Fandom decided to put some 300 items they sell on the auction. So east coast put aside some 300 items. Auction opened. Most items started at $1. Most items closed at $1. Okay, first auction is over. Let’s ship to auction winners. How are we going to do this? Auction information (winner, item won, bid price, address, etc) was kept in west coast server. More precisely a server maintained by 3rd party contractor hired to maintain auctions. How are we going to transfer the data? The moron in charge of the auction had an idea. He told east coast to logon to the auctions admin pages on web and then copy and paste the auction winner information to the fulfillment system. No! Let’s print every auction winner and let the data entry clerk to enter the data. No! There was another problem. Auction data contain no SKU number. It only had the description of the product. So the warehouse order pickers had to read the auction info and tried to match the product the best he/she can. Another problem. The winners weren’t valid winners. Fandom registration scheme let anyone to register. Many auction winners were like “pud”, “ou812”, “if you see kay”. No address. No payment info. 50% of the auction had no real winners. Another problem. Fandom forgot to charge shipping cost. So many auction winners got away with paying $1. This took little more than a month to complete. While this was happening, there was second and third wave…

Blunder Three ? Jim Porter
Jim Porter was Chip’s old professor from UCLA. Chip and Jim worked together before. After the move debacle, Fandom needed to implant “Fandom” person in east coast. A spy. They can’t hide things from us now! He was put in-charge of east coast operations. Focused on accounting and customer service. Accounting because Fandom wanted to see where the money is being spent and customer service because that’s when “good customer service is way to go” days. Jim was poised to improve the customer service. (CS) He replaced existing CS manager and replaces him with a rat that knew nothing about the business or the product. The rat joined Fandom Fulfillment center because of the stock options. Online interactive chat thing. Chip decided to pay $40,000 to get the online interactive chat software that customer service can use. He did this without technical approval. He signed the contract with his gusto. The spy. Jim is okay as a person but his reality realm is way off. East coast upper management had the most difficult time because if there were a situation then Jim would see it differently. Thus Mark and Chip got reports that were contradictory to what east coast upper management would report. Jim was sent back to west just about the time Chip resigned and was told to stay at home.

Buddy Christ:

    Oh, by the way. I have it on good authority that the fat lady has sung. Joram just sent out a note to the fanatics that the “supposed” interested parties arent interested anymore. Today was their final try at salvaging anything. Wee hoo! Now we can all get back to looking for jobs.

Michael Kersey:

    There was money to be made in Bond. He wouldn’t be around after 40 years, 36 books and hundreds of toys later if he wasn’t a cash cow. But speaking only for myself, Fandom has zero clue with how to market Bond. I gave it my best effort, but it was always to no avail. They just weren’t getting it through their head. I don’t know if they just couldn’t relate to what fans were looking for or thought EVERYTHING was cost prohibitive. Most of the stuff they sold in my store was stuff they would give away with the daily sweepstakes anyway.

Last February I found in the Fandom catalogue a pre-order for a Dr. No diorama, complete with Pussy Galore, James Bond and Dr.No. Did FandomShop alert me to this new item so I could push it from the front of my site? No. But I did it anyway, as Bob impressed upon us the need to help make Fandomshop strong. Eventually I realized FandomShop had dropped the Diorama. DId Fandomshop alert me to tell me they had discontinued the item? No.

jasonx East Coaster:

    You don’t seem to know it, but from day one they wanted your domain GONE from Fandom. Milo, Gough, the whole lot of them — they said it over and over: “Get rid of James Bond and do a DRAGONBALL Z domain — we can sell toys from that, but there’s no money to be made from James Bond.”

Michael Kersey:

    Doran, Michael Doran, became the new enemy. Personally, I can’t stand Doran. He was constantly up to no good and was a threat to others. He refused to get along and work with others whose territory he consistently broke into. How’s that for team spirit? By the end of it all, some refused to even talk to him.

That in itself is just one classic example of why Fandom failed. You create the slogan “For the fans. By the fans” but then shut out the fan input and instead install a bunch of high priced execs who know nothing about the genre. Who did these people think they were kidding? You can’t fake this stuff. You can’t come into this realm and get away with it. Either you love this stuff and know what works, or you don’t. And if Harry Potter wasn’t selling….well, then there was no hope for us all.

Buddy Christ:

    One week they are telling everyone to tone down the content and make it family friendly so that we can get the official Harry Potter fan club, and the next week they’re putting up porno at Techno Alamo. One day they fire some people, the next day they, hire an outside agency to do the same thing, less effectively, for triple the cash.

Paulie Walnuts:

    From the West Coast perspective, I know that the prevailing thought is that there is one person to blame, and one person only; Mark Young. This guy would tell you one thing and then someone would say something to him and he would change directions on a dime. He had no experience running a business, managing people nor had any understanding of where we were going to be in 6 months, let alone 5 hours. He sat in his office all day and would not even talk to people other than his stooges like Nick Saunders and Gerry Kline. His way of making decisions was to make no decision. He also lied to everyone, including people on the East Coast, but from what I have been reading on this board, the East Coast would rather have been lied to and told what they wanted to hear than rather the truth.

Michael Kersey:

    The stories I hear about Chip are not the Chip I knew. Then again, I didn’t spend anywhere near as much time with him as you all did. Maybe the pressure got to him and changed him in ways I had not seen. I don’t know. I’ll look back on it all though and have some good memories. It’s kind of sad, but we’ll all get over it. I just think of what a shame it was it had to come to this when it didn’t have to be that way and no one will convince me otherwise.

Either way, Fandom and the Fandomains are still there and are still being updated. Certainly for the comics side, it’s reported that Comics Newsarama has post-Fandom plans and it’s likely that many of the domains will continue under some form or other – even in the form they existed in pre-Fandom.

This Has A Rumour Value Of 5 Out Of 10

About The Author