Every industry has its less… socially appropriate individuals. Most people have heard of Mel Gibson’s unfortunate rants, or Brad Paisley’s misguided song “Accidental Racist” and its accompanying music video. That same lack of tact or empathy can also be found in the world of comic books, be it in the form of racist characters from decades ago (looking at you, Ebony White) or rants on the parts of some of the industry’s contributors. Due to the smaller and more insular nature of the comics industry, incidences in the latter category tend to stick out more noticeably and, besides being awful and disrespectful towards minorities, inadvertently tarnish comics and the people who earn a living making them. The following creators have been some of the most outspoken in their opinions.
Note: The following opinions/reactions are not those of The Richest. In cases where a creator is put to task over something insulting or awful they said, it’s a common tactic of their defenders to respond with cries of “free speech!” or “down with censorship!” Although we are entitled to freedom of speech we all must take responsibility for the words we say or write in this case, these 5 comic creators have used their freedom of speech in a way that has offended some of their viewers, take a look and find out what was said and the uproars it caused.
5 Tony Harris (Starman, Ex Machina)
The penciller on the 1990s reboot of Starman and later on Brian K. Vaughan’s critically acclaimed series Ex Machina, Harris was a fairly low key figure in the industry, known mostly for his well-defined linework and realistic anatomy. But in November of last year, he caused a stir for a lengthy rant he posted on his Facebook page. In the piece, he lambasted certain women who cosplayed (dressed up as characters) at comic conventions, namely those of a larger build and those who he accused of being fake nerds who “preyed on” innocent, virginal men. The artist’s rant was littered with numerous CAPITALIZATIONS, which didn’t help in lending the piece a professional sheen. In response to his breathless essay, BuzzFeed writer Donna Dickens deconstructed Harris’ words and criticized him for sl*t-shaming and objectifying women.
4 Erik Larsen (Savage Dragon)
One of the founders of Image Comics, a publishing house independent from DC and Marvel that focuses on creator-owned works, Erik Larsen is perhaps best known for his tenure writing and pencilling Savage Dragon. In recent years, he has—to his detriment—gained further recognition for comments he made regarding a copyright dispute between Image co-founder Todd McFarlane and famed comic book writer Neil Gaiman. Larsen was not pleased with what he saw as Gaiman taking credit for what he characterized as “Spawn on a horse” and took his anger to Twitter and the Image message boards, though one would imagine that McFarlane wouldn’t take too well to the statements his fellow creator made. Larsen launched accusations of an all-female jury being “charmed by [Gaiman’s] English accent and sad story.” He also made similar remarks about an all-female jury favouring Gaiman during a previous copyright dispute in 2005.
Laura Hudson of ComicsAlliance noted that McFarlane didn’t voice approval of Larsen’s remarks and commended him for not stooping to attacks against women as his contemporary did.
3 Dave Sim (Cerebus)
Running from 1977 to 2004, Dave Sim’s Cerebus was one of the longest-running works by a creator in the comics industry, totalling roughly 6000 pages. Written entirely by Sim, who also drew most of it (starting with issue #65, artist Gerhard began pencilling the series’ backgrounds), it began as a send-up of fantasy comics and eventually developed into something much grander. In time, Sim used Cerebus—named for its eponymous character, a simultaneously anthropomorphized and misanthropic aardvark—to explore a variety of social issues, ranging from war to spirituality. An ardent self-publisher, he has also arranged for the comic and its characters to enter into the public domain when he and Gerhard are deceased—a surprisingly simplistic move in an industry whose history has been plagued by debates and legal proceedings surrounding ownership and copyright.
While the series was criticised by some for the grandiose ideas it aspired to discuss—“Cerebus syndrome” is used to describe comics or other works who start off as carefree and comedic and eventually become dour and portentous—readers would soon find a different reason to take Sim to task. In issue #186, published in September 1994, Sim wrote a lengthy essay—under the in-universe nom de plume of Viktor Davis—that characterized women as emotional “Voids” and compared female divorcees to “five-foot-six leech[es].” Naturally, his essay received a variety of complaints from comic creators both male and female. Sim later attested that fellow cartoonist, Bone creator Jeff Smith, was dominated by his wife. When Smith denied this, Sim challenged him to a boxing match. According to the Comics Journal, Smith turned down his offer.
2 Scott Adams (Dilbert)
Scott Adams is the creator, writer and artist of Dilbert, one of the most popular newspaper comics in the world for nearly a quarter century now. He was also one of the first comic creators to maintain a stream of communication with his fans, first in the form of a newsletter and later with his blog. It was the latter that landed the cartoonist in trouble in 2011 when he composed a piece supposedly criticizing the “Men’s rights” movement while at the same time comparing women to “children and the mentally handicapped” regarding how they should be treated differently.
The cartoonist later deleted the post, though screenshots of it were taken, and he made an account under a different identity on the MetaFilter message boards to comment on and defend his piece. The controversy didn’t put a damper on his essay-writing, however. Later on that year he penned another piece that was interpreted by many as sympathizing with sexual abusers, categorizing their actions alongside other “natural instincts of men” and placing some of the blame for their actions on a society that constrains males. Yupp.
1 Frank Miller (Sin City, 300, The Dark Knight Returns)
Frank Miller is one of the most famous creators in the comic book industry, even to laypeople. His works have played a major role in popularizing the comics medium during the last decade: the adaptations of his Sin City series and historical comic 300 were significant commercial successes, and his Batman comics The Dark Knight Returns and Year One were major influences on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises. But his work has not been a stranger to controversy, and the way the writer/artist has responded to said controversy has only exacerbated it.
Miller’s portrayal of women and LGBT characters have never been particularly progressive: in Sin City, the only women tough enough to survive on their own are sex workers, portrayed as constantly wearing fetishistic clothing; the few gay characters are depicted as criminal and perverted; a transsexual police officer is rendered as violent and suffering an inferiority complex. Not all people have interpreted the film this way, this is the negative feedback from movie goers.
Comics writer and contemporary Alan Moore characterized Miller’s work, post-Sin City, as misogynistic and homophobic, according to The Guardian. Miller also received criticism for his monstrous portrayal of the Persians in 300, a work that also lionized the Spartans of old while whitewashing their use of eugenics and slavery.
And of course, there’s Holy Terror. Originally conceived as a vehicle for Batman to fight Al Qaeda, Miller turned it into a fully original work for its release in 2011, replacing the Caped Crusader with a new but similar character called the Fixer. Though Miller’s highly stylized artwork was applauded, his depiction of Islam and its practitioners was not. Spencer Ackerman of Wired and David Brothers of ComicsAlliance accused Miller of conflating the actions of a terrorist group with the entirety of Islam. Miller’s own response to some of these criticisms didn’t help, either: in an interview, he admitted to knowing “squat” about Islam and “a lot about Al Qaeda.”