ComicsGate is filled with modern-day white-supremacists, misogynistic men, and bigots. Or at least that’s what their opposition wants you to think. I’ve been following this movement for quite some time now and while I’ve seen multiple parody accounts, doused in sarcasm and satire, throw heavy amounts of criticism at those they feel are ruining their cherished hobby, the base of the ComicsGate movement appears to include a wide array of fans and creators from all walks of life who just want to see a real change within the industry.
I was fortunate enough to catch up with a few fans that align themselves with the ComicsGate movement that, by the definition of most, shouldn’t. Twitter users @darthpool137, a half-Jewish former comic shop employee; @reinoe, a black geek-culture fan; and @tristen_just, the host of YouTube’s Nerdette’s Newsstand and a rising female voice in ComicsGate culture.
All of these outspoken ComicsGate rebels share one thing in common: a desire to see the amazing world of geek-culture flourish and spread like wildfire. The following is a question and answer session I had with the three.
Adam A.F.: What caused you to become involved.
- @tristen_just: “There was never one specific moment. It was more like a series of events, starting with a decline in quality and a push for political comics done in an incorrect way, adding in some amazing indigogos and the lack of female representation on YouTube especially (not so much Twitter). I am very opinionated and thick skinned, and I think that is needed especially when seeing many of our favorite pros in the comic business be so patronizing and cruel at times. I have been reading comics since I was about eight. Batman was my first love, and soon after that I found the X-Men. Reading the comics led me into loving the culture and community that surronded it. I still do. [I’ve] always wanted to write a comic, make my mark, but with life and education… that never was feasible. After watching channels like Diversity In Comix and Ethan van Sciver, I decided I’d like to try making my own mark that way, add in the culture war, and it seemed like the time was smart to begin.”
According to most anti-CG, there is no place in the movement for women.
- @tristen_just: “Oh no, that is completely false. The community has some absolutely amazing woman, and strong woman at that. I became involved because we all share similar ideals. We all share a love for comics, but it does go beyond that. It goes to the way they’re written, to getting back to good books with less politics and more escapism. But even beyond that, it goes to a call for pro’s to be professional. I should never have to worry about someone I admire and look up to calling me names, denouncing my community, or blocking me because I don’t share the same political stance, or they are unable to receive what I say as constructive criticism. Being a female has nothing to do with that, bottom line, gender should not matter. It is about being a consumer.”
- @reinoe: “I was unsatisfied with the direction of Star Trek Discovery. I wanted to see if there was some sort of interpretation that I had missed. I stumbled across a video about Avery Brooks by Just Some Guy (another person involved with ComicsGate who is a minority) about what it means to be a ‘black actor’. Brooks interpretation was very much in line with my own and complete opposite of what the press and Soniqua Martin-Green were preaching, i.e. being ‘Black’ doesn’t really mean a lot other than it’s a race. Its not a pesonality, its not a hobby, its one of the least important designations when it comes to who a person is. Because of YouTube’s algorithm the very next video involved Diversity In Comix talking about how Riri Williams was a sociopath and a professional victim with her teacher. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Clearly the silliness about promoting irrelevant traits over quality was widespread. I had not really been paying too much attention to the culture war. This took place around late January 2018. During that time Ethan van Sciver was literally being harassed and being called a nazi. I quickly researched and saw that he had done artwork reminiscent to Communist imagery as well and was surprised at how stupid and baseless the accusations were. So I kept watching DnC videos and expanded to other youtubers as well. Just Some Guy, Weaponized Nerd Rage…I couldn’t really ‘binge’ but the facts were so transparent and what the insiders in the industry were saying was just the complete opposite of what was obvious. Just like what happened with Star Trek Discovery, what was being promoted in comics media was practically the exact opposite of reality and blatant in its falsity.”
- @darthpool137: “I worked for many years at a large comic store in a very liberal part of the US. I noticed things were going wrong slowly. We used to love new comic day. We couldn’t wait to read all the new books coming out. By the time I left new comic day was nothing but complaints. Lots of, ‘This is crap. No one is going to buy this’. Putting in orders became really depressing. It was like staring into a really dismal crystal ball. Customers began talking about Diversity In Comix in hushed tones. They’d look over their shoulder and whisper, ‘That Zach guy is an a**hole, but he’s right about things. That’s one thing I’d like to interject. In my experience, everyone from those who have never heard of ComicsGate to those who think ComicsGate are S.S. troops, repeat ComicsGate’s criticisms of the industry almost verbatim. A customer would talk about how ‘there needs to be more diverse comic characters’ one minute, then talk about Marvel replacing their heroes with more diverse characters ‘is the dumbest idea’ the next. I started watching Diversity In Comix’s videos and found he was right more often then he was wrong. I didn’t discuss it at work, but if I brought up any ComicsGate complaints about the industry, all my co-workers agreed.”
How does ComicsGate overcome the hurdle of being labeled a ‘hate group’?
- @tristen_just: “Begin by reeducation. Try to explain to them in an adult manner what you are and what you stand for. The only way for them to see you’re not in a hate group is to not be hateful. To be the ones that take the abuse (so to speak) and come out level headed. The only way to prove ComicsGate is worthy and make it successful is through peaceful interactions and moving forward with good books like on Blacklist and ALLCAPS. Leading by example is the only way it will work. ComicsGate is not like an exclusive club or corporation. It’s honestly more of a philosophy about what mainstream comics are supposed to mean and represent and how creators are supposed to treat the fans. There may be bad apples, but that doesn’t mean the tree doesn’t have healthy roots. The people who align themselves with ComicsGate, are from all different walks of life, but their stance on professionalism and quality of product doesn’t really waver.”
- @darthpool137: “The biggest hurdle to ComicsGate is the negative PR campaign surrounding it. All of our legitimate criticisms and concerns get drown out by Anti-ComicsGate shouting, ‘You’re all a bunch of old, straight white men who hate change and can’t stand to see minorities succeed’. It’s hard to have any kind of meaningful discussion when one side is constantly calling the other a Nazi. I have a lot of people come at me who are surprisingly ill-informed. There was a young woman who was repeatedly coming at me the other night saying that there was video proof of Richard C. Meyer (host of Diversity In Comicx) marching with the white nationalists in Charlottesville and that we were all Nazis. I questioned her on the facts and found out that she had never seen the video and in fact thought Ethan Van Sciver was Richard C. Meyer. That kind of thing happens all the time. People are convinced that we’re all Nazis, but if you ask if they’ve ever watched a Diversity In Comix video, they respond something like, ‘I’d never watch that Nazi trash!’. It benefits Anti-ComicsGate to keep people ignorant of the real issues and frame the conversation as ‘Nazis don’t like non-white men making comics’. Anyone who even slightly agrees with ComicsGate can then be labled a Nazi sympathizer. You and your website will most likely get called ComicsGate for your failure to reach through the computer and roundhouse kick me in the face. To be clear, ComicsGate has no problem with whoever wants to make comics as long as the comics they make are good and they treat the customers with respect. People don’t revel themselves as a problem until they’re causing said problem. No one puts ‘I’m a racist’ in their Twitter profile. Once someone starts in on some horrible [stuff] they get the boot quick. In the past there’s been some people who wanted to steer ComicsGate towards the Alt-Right and ComicsGate resisted. As it’s been said, ComicsGate has many valued POC, non-US, LGBTQ+ and female members. I, myself, am half Jewish. I wouldn’t be a part of any ‘hate’ movement.”
So why not abandon the ComicsGate label and start something fresh that’s not bogged down by the stigma of being a ‘hate group’?
- @darthpool137: “It’s been discussed, and even tried, but ultimately pointless. You’ll just get lumped back in with ComicsGate again. Look at Peter Semeti. He’s never claimed to be part of ComicsGate, but because of his neutrality and sensible social media policy, he is branded as such. You see a lot of formerly rational pros (Donny Cates and the whole Venom shipping fiasco is the most recent example) who suddenly start denouncing customers as bigots out of the blue. It’s because they know if they get labeled as ‘Secret ComicsGate’ it will permanently stick, so they have swing hard the other direction quickly in order to avoid permanent condemnation. While I’m thinking of it, I want to bring up #movetheneedle. Nothing exposes Anti-ComicsGate’s game like MTN. MoveTheNeedle is simply comic customers sharing pics of the comics they bought and using the hashtag. Instantly MTN was rebranded as a Nazi dog-whistle for customers not photographing books they didn’y but. If you were a pro who retweeted someone who bought your work suddenly you were in league with bigoted harassers. Anti-CG didn’t like the reality of what comic consumers actually bought, so they re-framed the conversation in their favor.”
- @tristen_just: “Like I said, the roots are healthy and the the ideas behind the movement are solid. What’s wrong with asking for good comics and professional pros? Absolutely nothing. The movement is far from hateful, along with the good creator’s and YouTubers contained within it.”
- @reinoe: “As far as ComicsGate being labelled a hate group, I don’t care. These are people who call Jews like Ben Shapiro Nazis, call Kanye West all manner of racist garbage, and throw around ridiculous phrases like ‘internalized misogyny’. Social Justice Warriors are the most racist, hate-filled people on Earth. ComicsGate should just focus on creating good books from pros in the industry who engage in appropriate behavior. Lastly about the ‘no-one will listen’…that isn’t true. Just like I stumbled upon ComicsGate casually on YouTube, people will come across #comicsgate and judge for themselves. People who won’t judge for themselves are usually not capable of independent thought anyway. Why continue to bend over backwards and reaching out to people who won’t listen? Just speak. Those who will listen will listen. Those who won’t, won’t.”
So then how does ComicsGate succeed or win in 2019?
- @darthpool137: “I’m not sure if ComicsGate’s goal is to win as much as it is to save/fix the industry. I’d consider it a win if the comic book industry lasted another 20 years. My hope is that we jettison the ‘Everyone in ComicsGate is a Nazi’ smokescreen and both sides can discuss the issues. I see the two main problems facing the industry as 1 – the current distribution system, and 2 – modern creators (and the editorial that hires them) inability to connect with the comic consumer base. It’s been said that, once indie creators took over mainstream comics, mainstream comics started selling like indies. Comics and comic culture have never been more popular, yet comics have never sold so poorly. Two things need to happen before we can get to this stage of discussion. One good, one bad. Good: People need to be better informed about ComicsGate. When you see all the LGBTQ+, POC and female voices in ComicsGate, it’s hard to dismiss it as a hate group. Unfortunately most of Anti-ComicsGate just heard the ‘facts’ from somewhere else and never do their own investigating. The more people who take the time to learn about ComicsGate, the less will be against it. Like I said earlier, this won’t be good for those who have a vested interest in labeling their critics as ‘harassing hate mongers’. Bad: You get prestige in ‘Call-Out Culture’ by calling people out. A ton of wackos are seeing Renfamous being unjustly rewarded for doing nothing more than [trash] talking ComicsGate 24/7, and also want some of that attention. Eventually they’ll run out of ComicsGate affiliated pros to call out, and they’ll start going after ‘secret’ ComicsGate members. They’ll attack innocent pros to earn points with the rest of Anti-CG, not caring about the horrible cost to these pros. Enough pros get exiled to our side and the tables will turn. Suddenly pros will realize if they were maliciously mislabeled maybe others were too.”
- @reinoe: “Since success means different things to different people, its best to support things that one has control over themselves. For example, I’ve personally refused to buy any Marvel or DC books and have extended that to anyone who’s on a book that blocks me on Twitter without me having ever interacted with them. This greatly cuts down on the books I’ll personally buy. By buying books from creators who are openly ComicsGate it shows that there are viable alternatives out there and that I can put my money where my mouth is.”
- @tristen_just: “I would like to see improved comics and professionalism from the industry. As far as ComicsGate goes…Begin by less infighting and more production of comics from the greats like Ben Henderson, Ethan van Sciver, Richard C. Meyer, and Mike Miller. They all have quality books, and are good for the industry to look at and realize just how well done a comic can be.”
Tristen, do you still want to make your own comics? And if so, you you believe it to be possible in the current state of the industry?
- @tristen_just: “I would love to, as a writer. I have little to no artistic ability, but I can write. As far as possibility…Anything is possible, but in my case it would have be an Indigogo because with the way the big companies are, I’m ‘wrong think’ and therefore unwelcome.”
So you believe that even as a woman you have less chance of getting work at either of The Big Two, which are supposed to be all about diversity hires, than you do on your own with the help of your movement that’s supposedly filled misogynistic males?
- @tristen_just: “No, not at all with the big two. I have the same chance as any man. I believe what kills any chance is the fact that I’m ‘wrong think’. The ComicsGate movement is not filled with misogynistic males, its just been labeled that way by outsiders.”
Well there you have it, folks. Three distinct and diverse voices from within the ComicsGate movement. They are only three among thousands though, and hopefully I can continue to showcase all of their diverse voices here. Many on the Anti-ComicsGate side make it sound as if ComicsGate is fizzling out, but I foresee a strong showing from them this year. It may take some time for these ‘Rebel Scum’ to make a real difference, but I don’t think they are going to be squashed so easily.
Darthpool has also informed me that a group of investigators loosely affiliated with ComicsGate are working to expose some of the Anti-ComicsGate personalities and the dirty tricks they use. He was unable to go into any further details at present, so there will be more to come on that later.
This link is on @darthpool137’s bio and was put together by user @pixeltraitor. It is a pretty good overview of what ComicsGate stands for.
Check it out here.