This is going to be a difficult article to write. But then again, this was a difficult week, especially as other comic book fans (and creators, too) tried to reconcile what they thought they knew from what was clearly true.
Last week, longtime comic book editor/writer Katie West tweeted out accusations against two comic book creators for sexual grooming and manipulation: Cameron Stewart (artist and former co-writer of Batgirl) and Warren Ellis.
Yes, that Warren Ellis. Writer of Planetary, Transmetropolitan, The Authority, Global Frequency, and many, many more. Currently writer and showrunner of the critically acclaimed Castlevania. And the more women that came forward to talk about their experiences (thirty-five and counting), the more I realized that...well, one of my favorite authors was a fucking creep.
I thought about writing an article about that, but no article would be better than Dr. Nerdlove’s On Finding Out Your Heroes Are Monsters (Or: Detoxifying a Culture). It goes in depth on pretty much everything and I highly recommend every comic book fan read it — or, at least the ones who still don’t believe that Ellis did these things. He did. The entire culture of comic books (and the larger male-oriented culture of media) allowed him to do these things and get away with them for years.
So what I want to write about then is...what now? I can stop buying his books (I’ve already removed The Batman’s Grave from my pull-list) and I can support the women who, very clearly, were victimized by him. But beyond that...how can I reconcile the books I love with the man who wrote them?
What happens when your favorite book was Ender’s Game or Harry Potter? Like Orson Scott Card and J.K. Rowling, what Ellis did wasn’t illegal, it was just morally reprehensible. As Dr. Nerdlove wrote:
But the fact that it was legal doesn’t mean that harm wasn’t done. It doesn’t mean that people weren’t taken advantage of, had their trust abused by someone they respected or — in many cases — idolized and who leveraged their trust against them. The fact that no laws were broken doesn’t remove the abuse of trust, nor does it mitigate the consequences of those action.
I can’t go back to my younger self and ask him not to buy all of Transmetropolitan — and I wouldn’t want to, considering just how good and relevant that comic book is. Ender’s Game remains a great book, no matter how much of a homophobic creep Orson Scott Card is. Harry Potter still changed literature for young adults, even if Rowling turned out to be a transphobe.
But I still can’t separate them from their works. I can try — the same way I try to separate works derived from Lovecraft from his racism or works by Isaac Asimov from his sexual assault. (I was going to write “creepy groping and kissing of women without their consent,” but then I realized, nope, that’s sexual assault. Fuck you, Isaac Asimov.) But, ultimately, what they did still sticks in the back of my mind.
And perhaps that’s just how it should be: we can read and reread what they created, but we still have to keep in mind who they were and are. Even if Ellis somehow redeems himself, we still shouldn’t forget.