But then comics hit a new low, as March flowers brought forth March showers. Yes, it was time for a sexual harassment scandal.
Marvel Comics announced that Comics Alliance writer Chris Sims would be co-creating a X-Men ‘92 comic (which I assume was about that time in 1992 when the president of the United States vomited on the Japanese prime minister except with Disco Dazzler in it). This news reached former comics editor Valerie D’Orazio (herself an author of various Marvel comics), who described suffering from PTSD because of cyberbullying she’d experienced between 2007 and 2010, with Sims identified as “one of the worst” of the cyberbullies.
Sims was quick to defuse the situation, except for the part where he was quick to defuse the situation.
Instead, like comics pros before (and probably after) him, Sims proceeded to apologize... to D’Orazio’s husband. Um: is there a Comics Bro Code about only apologizing to husbands?? Sorry, guys: I was sick with the toilet-shits the day they taught apologizing only to married women’s husbands in Comics Bro Code classes.
After apologizing to D’Orazio’s husband, Sims then issued a public apology … to his fans. Except in his public apology, he forgot the part where he, uh, apologized to D’Orazio. Instead, Sims wrote “I’ve never apologized.” Which ... continued to be true after his “apology"...?? Bold choice.
As a result, he then had to write a third apology, finally this time directed to D’Orazio herself, indirectly, in a Comics Alliance column called Ask Chris. You know: like Jesus would have done. I’m not sure if a link to that column was sent to D’Orazio, or if it’s just assumed that “Ask Chris” would be something D’Orazio religiously reads, in case Chris Sims happened to answer questions like “How do I stop you from cyberbullying me?” or “Does the Batman know any good ways to stop suffering from PTSD?”
Three apologies? Yes, Sims hadn’t even published his first Marvel comic yet, and his writing was already padded and decompressed.
Adding an odd atmosphere to this whole thing, though: Sims has close friends in the so-called “SJW wing” of comics journalism, for whom this story was treated (often confusingly) as a tale of Chris Sims’s noble battle against the adversity of having previously spent his life being Chris Sims-- like a shit Rocky sequel. “He’s learned so much, over the course of these last three apologies, and he’s going to continue to learn and grow as a person over the next five apologies, too, just grow and grow as a person until he finally gets an apology to the lady he cyberbullied right, at which point we’re going to sew an Apologizing Merit Badge onto his Social Justice Webelos uniform. It’s just like the end of The Last Dragon — after eight or nine apologies, Chris Sims is going to get the Glow and nail that final apology! We’re just so proud about how much he’s growing as a person,” cooed Sim’s friends, striking another blow in the Social Close-Enough-Kinda-Justice War.
Not everybody came home in one piece from the Social Close-Enough-Kinda-Justice War though. Little Billy Shoeshine from the Bronx: his legs got blown off. They were just little bloody nubs, waving around in the air, all hibbety-jibbety. I can still hear him, begging me, begging me to write a think piece about how we need more differently-abled superheros. The war never ended for some of us! Oh god, oh god… Little Legless Billy Shoeshine, why?!
For some, this story raised questions about forgiveness: Under what circumstances can people be allowed to move on after making egregious and grotesque mistakes? When does someone deserve a "second chance?" If a victim does not forgive a person, does that somehow waive or lessen the burden that might fall on the rest of us to be "forgiving people?" Haven’t we all made mistakes? Don’t we all need to be forgiven? What’s the point of encouraging personal growth, persuading people to be better human beings, if no one can ever escape past mistakes? How persuasive is it to advocate for good behavior if we do so from a moat-fortified Castle of Constant Vengeance? What are we giving up for the momentary rush of Being Right?
For others, this story raised questions about consequences: Why must mistreating people never have any consequences in comics? What would it say to the next generation of women readers and creators if there weren't consequences, if comics once again ignored any moral obligation to create a "safe space" for them to exist? And why should men get to constantly claim the internet as a frictionless space free of consequences when it favors them in disputes? What entitles them to dismiss past scumbaggery as “lessons” in their personal development or the rambunctiousness of youth, when we know women online do not have anything near that kind of luxury? Aren’t all of these questions ones which we know don’t get asked for women, who have to go into hiding for even minor slights? And why should we ever give any weight to an apology given moments before some profit is to be made, especially when the apology favors the career of the person apologizing and his cultivated online "brand?"
But for myself and for those like me, the story raised perhaps the hardest possible question of them all:
Does this mean we have to worry about the mean shit we’ve said on the internet coming back to haunt us now?
Oh shit oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh SHIT oh shit oh fuck SHIT. Shit. Fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh shit oh. Oh. Oh My Fuck. Shit. No, no, shit! Shit your fuck! SHIT YOUR FUCK! Fuck. Fuck fuck.
Consequently, and in case anything good happens to me in the next twelve months, I must offer the following preemptive apologies to area husbands, which I promise are, uh, very sincere and that I’m making because I’ve, uh, grown … like, morally? … as a person… very recently:
- to the husbands of the Carol Burnett Facebook fanpage: I’m sorry I kept speculating that Tim Conway’s curtains don’t match his drapes -- we’ve all thought it, but maybe some things are better left unsaid;
- to the husbands of people watching Voltron cartoons on YouTube: I’m sorry I kept bringing up the delicate subject of abortion, specifically how I wish in real life that we could slam aborted fetuses together to form a Voltron-baby;
- to the husbands of visitors to Chewbacca’s IMDb page: I realize now that an IMDb message-board is the wrong place to try to sell a Chewbacca-themed body pillow made out of my own pubic hair. Nobody had told me about Etsy. I’m so sorry;
- to the husbands of Jai Courtney fans: I’m sorry I kept asking what your favorite Jai Courtney performance has been. I realize now there’s no way to ask that question that doesn’t sound mean and sarcastic;
- to the husbands of the Hooded Utilitarian website: I’m sorry about three of the eight mean things I might have said in previous and/or subsequent parts of this 2015 round-up. The other five things, I’m going to stick with either because I was making good points or because I made myself laugh at your expense and that just feels too good to walk away from. But on exactly three things, 37% of the time, yeah, I was maybe a little off-base;
- to the husbands of the naked man on Chatroulette masturbating furiously while wearing a Vin Diesel Halloween mask: I’m sorry for not being more supportive. You needed me to be there for you, and I let you down. You are my brother, masturbating Dominic Toretto, mi familia. Never forget that. As I believe
Simply RedSimple Minds put it, “Don’t you forget about me! Don’t don’t don’t you! Oh no OH NO you forgot about me! I needed a job-- Simple Minds just needed to eat, but you forgot about me and now I haven’t worked in years and I’m starving. Everything is black. Cold. So, so cold. I… I see a light. It looks so warm. And my Grampapa is there. I haven’t seen him since he got hit by that train. Hi, Grampapa! It’s your little wee-wah, Simple Minds, finally coming home. I’m home. I’M HOMEeeee-”
PLEASE FORGIVE ME, AREA HUSBANDS! AND PLEASE GET YOUR PRECIOUS LITTLE FEMALE-PROPERTY TO FORGIVE ME, TOO!
But anyways, none of this mattered. Asked about the matter by CBR, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso responded: "While we condemn Chris’s past actions, we see his strongly worded apology" — referring here to the third apology, where Sims figured out to kinda apologize towards D’Orazio’s general direction — "as evidence that he now understands that verbal bullying and harassment of anyone is totally, unequivocally wrong." To translate that into Monopoly English: “Get Out of Jail Free.”
Sims would eventually continue to write for Comics Alliance, about which I’m going to keep quiet because I hope to be featured in their cosplay roundups the next time I dress-up as a sexy DragonBall. Quid pro quo. The Gamergate ethics-police will never catch me because I’m innocent!
And on the internet, the whole matter was drowned out by other offenses, great and small. 2015 had other controversies brewing. Eventually, it all became just another skeleton in comics’ overflowing walk-in closet of skeletons.
In September 2015, Marvel announced that Sims would continue to work with editor Jordan D. White (with whom he has a Sailor Moon podcast) on an ongoing X-Men ‘92 book.
D'Orazio responded (a) that “the list of female talent and editors who have been pushed out of this industry is huge. It’s a scandal, and I don’t see it really ending”, and (b) “go fuck yourself, Marvel Comics. Really, really really: go fuck yourself. Go fuck yourself Axel Alonso, go fuck yourself Jordan White, and as for Sims… he’s not even worth a fuck.”
(The 2015 Year-in-Review Spectacufuck continues in Part II.)