Something I Should Have Said Before

If you’ve been reading my work for long enough, then you probably remember that I had what I used to refer to as a “feud” with Valerie D’Orazio a few years ago. That’s the wrong word, since it was more one-sided than anything else, and I was in no uncertain terms the aggressor and a complete jerk.

I was needlessly harsh about her comics work, I left jerky comments on her site, I talked trash here and elsewhere, and while in my head I justified it as as purely being critical of her writing, I know I stepped over the line into making it a personal attack more than once. What I said is a matter of public record, and frankly, my intentions at the time don’t change what I actually did. At best, I was making someone’s life harder when I had no reason to, and at worst I was giving others a reason to do the same that went far beyond just me being an asshole and contributed to and validated the harassment of both Ms. D’Orazio and of women in general. When I finally realized that, long after I should’ve, I stopped, and I’ve tried to be better going forward.

I’ve never apologized for it, for the simple reason that I don’t think I have the right to insert myself back into someone’s life when I’ve treated them as poorly as I did to her, but I regret what I did. This is not a plea for forgiveness, or a clean slate. If what I did changes how you feel about me and my work, that’s completely understandable; I was wrong, and in every way the bad guy.

In the few interactions that I’ve had with Ms. D’Orazio, she has treated me far better than I would have if the situation was reversed.



Well. That was unexpected.

In case you haven’t heard, ComicsAlliance returned today with most of the old staff — me included. After being shut down by AOL, the site (and the staff) were picked up by TownSquare Media along with a few other sites, and now, we’re back in action. And I have to admit, for me at least, this was pretty surprising.

I honestly didn’t think it was going to come back. If you’ve been following over the past month, you’ve probably seen me kick up the output that I was doing at Wired and get a few features in over at Cracked (the one about Surviving Edged Weapons is my personal favorite), and I’ve been talking to a lot of other people that were nice enough to reach out about getting me hired in various places. Matt and I had even decided to just go ahead and post the DOA review that’s up at CA now right here on the ISB. Seriously, it was already formatted and scheduled to post when I got the news.

It goes without saying, but I’m glad the site’s back. As for what I’m going to do, I figure it’s going to mostly be the same as it was before, with a few minor changes: Movie Fighters is going to continue independently with just me and Matt, but I have a couple of ideas on what might replace it over at CA. Ask Chris will be back in its regular slot, and everything else should run like we just had a month-long vacation where we were all terrified for most of it.

Thanks a ton for everyone who reached out during what I will now call The Dark Times (but will probably end up just calling “May”). Now let’s get back to work.




As you probably heard already, AOL shut down ComicsAlliance last week after three years and three Eisner Award nominations. This is pretty upsetting for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that I’m currently out of a full-time job.

More than that, though, CA was a dream job in a lot of ways. I’ve wanted to be a professional writer since I was 12, and CA was literally the place that made that happen, allowing me to quit my day job and focus on making jokes about Batman on a professional level. There were so many opportunities that I got because of that job, and so many friends. That’s the thing about CA, and one of the reasons I think it worked so well: We all really got along, which made it fun to argue with each other and easy to write things that were meant to entertain ourselves more than anyone else. Working with Laura, Joe, Caleb and Andy gave me a pretty incredible amount of freedom to write about things I wanted to write about, and as selfish as it is, losing that is pretty depressing — something that’s been slightly exaggerated by the fact that most reactions are almost treating me like I am actually dead, instead of just sitting at home replaying Fable II  and hustling for more work. But on the bright side, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve gotten a lot of support from friends and readers, and it seems like there are a lot of people out there who are going to miss CA as much as I will. Or, you know, as much as you can without it directly impacting your wallet.

As for what’s next, I’m really not sure. This kind of took us all by surprise, and I have no idea how long is going to stay up or if they’re going to keep my work available there. War Rocket Ajax is Matt’s and mine, so that’ll continue into the forseeable future (and hey, now might be a good time to visit our sponsors). I’ve got a few unannounced projects that’ll be revealed soon, so I’ll obviously be talking about them here, on Twitter and on Tumblr, and I’ve got that semi-regular gig writing jokes about ’90s technology in movies at Wired, but I still don’t know where I’ll land permanently, if anywhere. I’ve seen  a lot of people mention that I could just keep on writing here, but that’s not really that workable considering that writing here doesn’t make a whole lot of money. A very, very kind reader did throw a donation my way to keep the ISB up and running, though, so there’s that. But, you know, hopefully it’ll all work out.

For now, I’m still just kind of shocked about CA getting axed, so forgive me if this got a little rambly. We’ll see what happens!

“What is unacceptable about that? There’s nothing unacceptable about that.”

Quote 1:

Rea: Can I get my Street Fighter without sexual harassment?

Bakhtanians: You can’t. You can’t because they’re one and the same thing. This is a community that’s, you know, 15 or 20 years old, and the sexual harassment is part of a culture, and if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community

Quote 2:

Rea: When I go to SoCal regionals and I see a Phoenix [from Marvel vs. Capcom 3] on main stage getting blown up and there’s some dude in the audience just yelling “Bitch! Bitch!” every time she gets hit and then she killed and goes “Yeah, rape that bitch!” Yeah, that’s totally acceptable! Really? Really? You’re going to tell me that’s acceptable?

Bakhtanians: Look, man. What is unacceptable about that? There’s nothing unacceptable about that. These are people, we’re in America, man, this isn’t North Korea. We can say what we want. People get emotional.

If you ever wonder why I’m a raging egomaniac with a superiority complex, it’s because I’ve been seeing people say stupid things like that online every day for the past 15 years.

In case you missed it, the quotes above come from a piece on Giant Bomb about a few things competitive fighting game player Aris Bakhtanians had to say about sexual harassment within his community, and it’s one of the most depressing things I’ve ever seen.

I like fighting games. I like ’em a lot, actually, but despite being right in the sweet spot of being 9 years old with a local arcade when Street Fighter II came out, I’ve never really been all that good at playing them. As a result, I’ve never been a part of any kind of fighting game community. But I see this argument all the time in other places. I see it once a week just in the world of comics, and I’m a guy who tries to stay as far away from comment threads as possible before the morbid curiosity finally overwhelms me. It happens all the time.

And it bugs me each and every time, because it’s such a fundamental act of reveling in hate and refusing to admit that anyone else deserves to be treated like a human being.

If you’re reading this, chances are pretty good that I don’t have to elaborate on why this is a bad thing, but apparently nobody ever sat Bakhtanians down to explain it, and as frustrated as that makes me, I’ll admit that there’s a level where I sympathize. I feel bad for the guy, not because he’s not wrong — he is — but because I’ve been there.

I grew up saying that stuff I didn’t like was gay, and that things I thought were dumb were retarded, and to this day, I have an attachment to those words as… well, as words. The way you hit that second syllable in “retarded” has such a perfect rhythm to it that works so well, especially for someone who’s completely in love with the sound of his own voice. I still have trouble trying not to let it slip out in conversation, and if you dig back through the archives of the ISB (which I don’t recommend you do), you’ll probably find me using it to refer to something dumb that happened in a comic book, or a word that’s just as bad or offensive. I know there are a couple in there.

But the thing is, I hit a point where I realized that those weren’t just words I like to use. They’re not just some collection of sounds that I can plug into a sentence to make it sound right when I read it out loud. It’s something that has a meaning beyond the way I use it.

Maybe Bakhtanians hasn’t hit that point yet. I’ll admit that for me, it took it being pointed out by friends — and again, I’ve done this shit before, and I’ll most likely do it again. But once you hit that point, once you know you’re doing something wrong, the only course of action that makes sense is to stop. It’s to try and change the way you’re acting, because if you don’t, then you’re just being a jerk for absolutely no reason. You’re making someone else’s life worse because you don’t want to make the smallest change to your own.

So I try to do better. I screw up, but I try to make sure I get it right next time. Story of my life, right? Probably yours too. Probably everybody’s, at least in my hand-wringing liberal optimist view of the world.

I make fun of things all the time. I make fun of people all the time, but at the very least, I try not to be a monster about it.

And the more I look at those quotes, the less I sympathize. The idea that someone could honestly not understand that there would be something unacceptable about shouting “rape that bitch!”, that he wouldn’t even admit that there was the slightest thing wrong that maybe we could address and tone down, that he wouldn’t even express the smallest possible amount of empathy for another human being, it’s infuriating. And then he gets to this:

“We’re in America, man, this isn’t North Korea.”

This is another one that I see all the time in comics, and it never fails to completely miss the point. Yes, we’re in America. Yes, we have the Freedom of Speech, and it’s the single most important right we have. But it doesn’t mean that you have to be an asshole.

In America, you’ve got the freedom to believe whatever you want. There are viewpoints I consider to be stupid and hateful and that I despise with a passion and I’d like nothing better than to see them completely excised from the collective human mindset, but they exist there, and we don’t have morals and ethics and Constitutional rights for when things are easy. We have them for when things are difficult, so we all just have to grit our teeth and allow people to go on believing these stupid, hateful things and expressing them the way they see fit.

Just like I have to grit my teeth and agree that yes: It is not technically illegal for you to be openly hostile to women and to claim that in doing so, you are in fact being an asset to this community you seem so proud of.

But you know what? It’s pretty fucking inconsiderate, and when you start putting your own selfish desires above the fact that you are reveling in propping up institutional hatred for another group within your community, then you’re every bit as bad as all the other awful people that we have to deal with because we value the fact that it’s legal to speak your mind.

The Giant Bomb article also gets to a point where it somehow manages to be even more depressing, when it turns to one of the other competitors, Miranda Pakozdi:

Day six of Cross Assault took place yesterday. Pakozdi played, but if you start watching around eight hours and 32 minutes into the stream, where she’s playing as Balrog, she doesn’t even attack. She just pushes forward on the stick. This continues in the next matches, where she plays as Ken using the same “strategy.”

Essentially, she’s given up.

I would too. Because there’s no point in continuing, in suffering through someone doing their level best to ruin something you love because they just don’t have a concept of the fact that other people are actually people.

If sexual harassment is such an intrinsic part of your community that it can’t be taken out without “turning it into something that it’s not,” then just as a rule of thumb, it probably should be turned into something that it’s not.

If your community can’t introduce a baseline of respect for another human being without being destroyed, then your community should probably be burned to the ground and have salt spread on the ashes so that it’ll never come back.

R.I.P. Bruce Brown



I knew Bruce Brown a little through the store where I used to work. Chad introduced us shortly after I started working there, and while I wouldn’t say we were ever more friends than casual acquaintances, he was always a nice guy with a friendly smile who was fun to talk to about what he was working on. That by itself rare enough to find hanging out at your local comic shop, even when it’s not attached to someone like Bruce, who had a genuine talent.

If you knew him, you already know how much poorer the world is for his absence, and if you didn’t, your world will be poorer for not having the stories he didn’t get a chance to tell.