#BeggingTheQuestion: Should Antarctic Press Have Dropped Jawbreakers?

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Two weeks ago, indie publisher Antarctic Press announced it would be publishing Jawbreakers: Lost Souls, a book by contentious figure and Youtuber, Richard C. Meyer, and former Marvel artist, Jon Malin (yeah, the “SJW vipers” guy). Meyer’s behavior over the course of the past year has been viewed as harassing and antagonistic to many in the comics industry. As such, the announcement caused a stir among his detractors. It even prompted prominent comic book author, Mark Waid, to publicly state he had put in a call to the publisher and was waiting to hear back from them.

In the hours that followed, Meyer took to YouTube and Twitter, claiming Waid and others, such as the comic book store, Variant Edition, colluded and conspired to keep Jawbreakers from being accessible to fans in brick-and-mortar locations. Antarctic tweeted out that they would be making an official statement. Soon after, they announced they had decided to pull out of publishing Meyer’s book, Jawkbreakers: Lost Souls.

The tweets have since been deleted, though one remains. It addresses the claims and speculations made by fans in the hours that followed.

Chief among these claims is that Waid intimidated the publisher into dropping the title. They event went so far as to say he used his position at Marvel as leverage. This only continued to spiral when a 4chan user claimed to be an employee of Marvel and went on to say that new Marvel Editor-in-Chief, C.B. Cebulski, was “beyond the pale angry” and had demanded Waid “kill all of his social media profiles and basically go off the grid.” The claim could neither be confirmed nor refuted. Nonetheless, it spread like wildfire as Waid has deleted his Facebook profile.

Meyer has also stated he would be filing a complaint with the Fair Trade Commission. Though, it is worth noting he has threatened legal action for defamation of character on multiple occasions. Many of his fans encourage this Trump-style behavior of legal threats. Like Trump, though, he seems to have taken little to no action, and others have claimed he would have no case in these instances.

The entire controversy has a lot of moving pieces, and others have already penned pieces attempting to break down the whole of the situation. So, I am focusing on something more specific–the backlash aimed at Antarctic for having both announced that they would publish Jawbreakers and then rescinding their offer to Meyer.

As of this writing, Antarctic seems to have turned off their Facebook review system after being flooded with one-star reviews. You can find me doing some dramatic readings of these reviews on Twitter here.

This is yet another example of the irrational anger exhibited by Meyer’s most rabid fans, but it forces me to beg a question. In the wake of backlash from Meyer’s detractors and from fellow creators, should Antarctic have gone back on their decision to publish this book?

There’s no cut and dry answer to this question. Much of my own view is tied to context, having watched Meyer’s rise in popularity over the last several months and the rallying around him by a segment of comic book fandom. Meyer tapped into a sentiment within a group that was connected by little beyond their mutual irritation with modern comic books, specifically Marvel’s more recent fare, which they view as pushing political agendas–liberal, of course–as well as desexualizing female characters. By skewering these works, Meyer garnered attention from fans who felt disenfranchised and even openly mocked by the industry, both through the fictional characters they hold dear and the online behaviors of creators on social media through platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Meyer also spent much of that time hurling insults at multiple creators, editors, and other staff members from various publishers–predominantly Marvel and, to some extent, Image Comics and DC–that many view as representing various forms bigotry, particularly those aimed at the trans community, women, and people of color. Meyer’s habit of quote-tweeting has also lead to dogpiling, which many see as a form of online harassment. What does or does not constitute abuse online can certainly be arguable, but I have seen the dogpiling firsthand.

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I was contacted about it for a Buzzfeed article recently in which my words on the subject were misrepresented, so I’m taking this opportunity to clarify. I did not take “preventative measures and [block] scores of troll accounts to keep abuse to a minimum” because of an interaction with comic book artist Ethan Van Sciver. At the height of Meyer frequently quote-tweeting me, I blocked roughly 350 accounts because my notifications had become clogged with comments from people who were clearly only there because they were followers of Meyer. When you’re trying to check your social media accounts, it can quickly become annoying having to wade through a sea of angry mentions just to get to everything else.

This is why I find Meyer’s feigned outrage to be a bit ridiculous. Meyer views himself as a critic, but much of the industry, due to his own actions, views him as an antagonist and a serial harasser, predominantly of creators who are trans, women, and/or people of color. To put it in less eloquent terms, when you act like a dick to 80% of a small industry whose members all talk to each other, of course most of them aren’t going to want to publish your book. I have to wonder what Meyer was expecting, to be welcomed with open arms because he had gained a sizable following?

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Though, if there was any publisher I actually would expect to publish Meyer’s work, it would have been Antarctic Press. To be frank, this is a company that currently produces, among other things, schlock directed at a far right audience and the anti-SJW crowd. Antarctic is the home of books like My Hero MAGADEMIA by author and artist Timothy Lim, creator of THUMP. Lim regularly interacts with Meyer on Twitter under the account @POTUSThump. Jawbreakers, tonally and by nature of its creator, seems to fit in with the rest of their line. So, it would seem that the backlash is the sole reason for Antarctic to pull out of their deal. It’s worth noting that Bleeding Cool has posted an article in which Rich Johnston speaks with both Waid and Antarctic Press owner, Ben Dunn. In it, Waid claims that Dunn had made his mind up after learning the type of person he was dealing with but before speaking to him. Waid stated:

From my point of view, I think the publisher clearly had no idea what kind of a man he was helping to enrich, and I’m genuinely impressed that, now knowing what he knows, he’s taken a stand even though he’s in a no-win situation where he can piss off either his longtime customers and creators or a small but loud lynch mob that embraces doxxing and harassment as a marketing strategy

Despite my own views of Meyer and his behaviors, I’m still inclined to let the market decide when it comes to matters like this. That’s the stance I took with the controversy surrounding Divided States of Hysteria, whose final issue sold 5,127 copies according to Comichron’s Diamond Sales Chart; it’s roughly what I would have expected. For context, Jawbreakers, despite having raised $305,129 on Indiegogo as of this writing, only has 7,956 backers. This means, for Antarctic, there’s clearly an audience for Jawbreakers, and a fairly decent one for an indie book. For Meyer, though, his repeated claims of having garnered a larger audience than those he regularly rails against are patently false and absurd.

Again, though, there is an audience. So, what should Antarctic have done in this instance? Well, in my estimation, they would have best served themselves by never having gotten involved in this debacle in the first place, but perhaps they should have stuck to their guns and published the book. Even stores like Variant Edition, who publicly stated they would not be stocking Jawbreakers, were still willing to take pre-orders from their customers.

Instead, they’ve brought the wrath of ComicsGate and Meyer’s followers down upon themselves, with their social media manager having spent much of last Saturday night attempting PR damage control on Twitter… poorly.

So, we’re left with multiple questions here. Sould Antarctic have chosen to publish Jawbreakers in the first place? Should they have caved to pressure, or as Waid claims, made the decision based on taking a moral stance after learning of Meyer’s behaviors? Well, that’s up to you to decide–and them.

While I can’t say I approve of any decisions or actions made or taken here by the publisher or the angry mobs, I would be remiss to not point out that it’s somewhat difficult to feel too bad for the company that brought us Sarah Palin’s jugs.

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Dexter Buschetelli thinks he is really clever, but you know better; don’t you? Do you? I dunno, I’m not your mom. Dexter can be found here on DYECB writing reviews and opinion pieces as well as on the website for his podcast, Let’s Get Drunk and Talk Comics.

Dexter Buschetelli thinks he is really clever, but you know better; don’t you? Do you? I dunno, I’m not your mom. Dexter can be found here on DYECB writing reviews and opinion pieces as well as on the website for his podcast, Let's Get Drunk and Talk Comics.

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Jose Villalobos
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Jose Villalobos

The entire Top 40 list of TPBs is nothing but Marvel, D.C., and Image. Not a single other publisher can compete. Except Jawbreakers Lost Souls has already pre-sold numbers that would put it at #1 for January, #1 for February, #1 for March in dollars, #2 in April, and #2 for the year. It might reach #1 for the year before it’s released. So you’re asking whether Antarctic should throw away money, cancel their only book that outsells every book… Read more »

Clark
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I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again,

“So

You think crowdsource backers translate into monthly recurring readers.”

A one time crowdsource can’t be compared with monthly comic sales homie. Apples and oranges. There’s a market there but don’t fool yourself, it’s a tiny tiny market with no market power.