#BeggingTheQuestion: What Does Ethan Van Sciver’s Departure From DC Comics Mean for the Industry and ComicsGate?

van sciver

On Sunday, June 10th, after months of speculation, Ethan Van Sciver finally announced on Twitter that he has left DC Comics. His final solicited work for the company, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #47, will be released on June 27th. Van Sciver has had a long and storied tenure with the company going all the way back to 1998. In recent years, however,Van Sciver courted controversy with his statements, behaviors, and a general “mean streak,” which has been documented by outlets such as—dare I say—Bleeding Cool.

According toVan Sciver , he departed in order to return to his creator-owned series Cyberfrog, the subject of a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign launched in the wake of newfound friend Richard C. Meyer’s Jawbreakers campaign. As of this writing, Jawbreakers and Cyberfrog raised $341,417 and $189,865, respectively.

While Van Sciver’s, as well as Meyer’s, current successes cannot be argued, many still speculate—and in some cases, even celebrate—the true reasons for the separation.

Van Sciver has become one of the central figures in what is known across comic fandom and industry professionals as “ComicsGate,” a pocket of fans upset with the current state of the industry, bemoaning what they see as an “SJW viper infestation” as well as “forced diversity” and “leftist propaganda.” Those in that community are generally viewed as bigots and gatekeepers, engaging in what many view as harassment towards individuals such as Heather Antos—an editor for Marvel at the time—who was targeted because she engaged in the egregious offense of going out for lunch with co-workers and taking selfies of themselves getting milkshakes.

Van Sciver previously only dipped his toes into ComicsGate, even distancing himself from it at times, but with the runaway success of Jawbreakers, it seems he decided to go for broke.

So what does all this mean, not only for Ethan Van Sciver, but the greater comics industry? Much to the chagrin of this very writer, it means—as I noted in my piece on Atlantic Press’ decision to drop Jawbreakers—there is clearly an audience for the antics of Van Sciver and Meyer. For every reaction that industry professionals, commentators, and fans on social media have had in the past year to Meyer and Van Sciver, half a million dollars is nothing to sneeze at. This does, however, beg more questions. Will Meyer and Van Sciver create sustainability beyond the controversies? WasVan Sciver’s departure of his own volition? Is the industry itself at least partially responsible for creating the very beast they’ve spent the last several months railing against?

I’ll begin with the first question. This is the moment when I remove my hat of objective—kinda—reporting and present opinions, as well as a bit of speculation. As I said, one can’t simply scoff at half a million dollars from crowdfunding. That is arguably unprecedented, and inarguably so for comics. I wouldn’t say there’s any part of me that admires what Meyer and Van Sciver have done; but I cannot, in any way, downplay their achievements. These two hit lightning in a bottle, detestable though their methods may be for this writer. They saw an audience upset about what comics and—let’s be honest here—the world have become, and they found a way to not only tap into it but capitalize on it monetarily.

In a video on his YouTube channel, ComicArtistPro Secrets, addressing his exit from DC, Van Sciver recalls an interaction with Jimmy Palmiotti in which he questioned Palmiotti about why he no longer pursued inking and penciling gigs. Ethan recalls Palmiotti’s response being, “I can’t get rich doing that.” In my estimation, I think Van Sciver has this interaction all wrong. Palmiotti got to the level he is at by understanding the industry, as well as having a grasp on diplomacy and other business-related practices.

Van Sciver

“Anybody wanna buy a t-shirt? I’m selling shirts. Did I mention the shirts yet? Please buy a shirt.”

In the very same video,Van Sciver notes he originally abandoned Cyberfrog because of the near-collapse of the comics industry—the pop of the “speculator bubble”—stating Cyberfrog wasn’t paying the bills. This was the reason he allowed himself to be picked up by DC, and in the process, made a name for himself, producing some of the more notable works for the publisher over the last decade. If his gamble with Cyberfrog fails, it is unclear whether or not he’ll be welcomed back into the fold. That leads to the second question.

Did Van Sciver choose to leave DC or was he given an ultimatum? It’s fairly common in businesses, especially those with high profile employees, to make separation decisions behind the scenes while official statements provided publicly don’t exactly align with the reality of the situation. Given past infractions, such as telling a Facebook user who stated “suicide jokes are never fucking funny” to go kill themselves, his current YouTube content, or his line of “Soy Wars” t-shirts—which could be seen as taking a stab at his employer’s competitor—Van Sciver may have been forced out. Companies often give employees at this level the choice to leave amicably, requesting they sign a non-disparagement agreement in exchange for severance compensation. If they choose to make a noisier exit, it could potentially damage their future career and personal life. As DC has largely stayed out of the “ComicsGate” issue publicly, one might assume this was an internal excommunication of Van Sciver for his involvement in said community.

van sciver

“I totally wasn’t fired. Seriously. Watch my YouTube video where I say as much. Please don’t skip the ads.”

All that leads me to the final question I’ve presented. This is where I piss off not only ComicsGate, but the industry at large. I’ve thought long and hard about whether to play this angle. As someone who aspires to be part of the industry, whether that be in reporting on it or actually creating within it, what I am about to say will likely hinder my chances of moving forward with that goal. That being said, I’m a hair stylist who does this on the side, so I have little to lose.

So, the real question, is the industry at least partially responsible for the successes of Meyer and Van Sciver outside the traditional avenues? Absolutely. Abso-tively-poso-friggin-lutely.

It’s no one’s fault but his own when Richard C. Meyer takes a transphobic dig at Magdalene Vissagio or when he accuses women like Heather Antos of sleeping their way into the industry. It was not Sean Jurgens’ fault whenVan Sciver told him to go kill himself. Those behaviors fall squarely on the shoulders ofVan Sciver and Meyer, but the rise in popularity of individuals associated with ComicsGate falls, at least partly, on the industry and the professionals within it.

Customers were upset. Their reasons may have been irrational, but when your response is to label them as bigots, racists, and even white supremacists it should be unsurprising that a legitimate bigot and harasser rises to power and begins to sway professionals like Van Sciver, who’d already felt ostracized for being a conservative and a Trump supporter. So, it should be no surprise to anyone that he would take note of Meyer’s success in pushing back against the industry and be enticed by the promise of similar success.

This is, again, just my personal opinion. I don’t think the industry ostracizedVan Sciver because he is a Republican; but I do feel my contemporaries, through truly good intentions, have only strengthened his argument. By lobbing the accusatory label of “Nazi” at anyone whose actions we find detestable, we’ve created a different beast. Whether you like, hate, or feel indifferent toward Ethan Van Sciver and Richard C. Meyer, they are digging in and may define how the comics industry operates in the future. They truly are the Scott Hall and Kevin Nash of comics, for better or for worse—for us or for themselves.

van sciver

Definitely not a photo of Rich Johnston and Jude Terror

 

Update: The photo in the cover image for this article comes from CGC Comics Blog.

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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You didn’t get permission to use my tweet so take it off