the old dog

The Old Dog: Sexism In The Comic-Book Industry

Stop Turning A Blind Eye To Sexism In Comic-Book Industry


Words by John Holland

It’s time that the men step up.

Recently there’s been a lot of talk online about what women have to go through in this business of making comics, just to make comics.   I can tell you right now, after reading what they have gone through, I am absolutely disgusted.   That’s the only word I can think of, disgust, at what these so-called men in power have put these women through.   It started with one woman telling of her interactions with a major comic book writer.  Other women came forward to add their voice to issues with this same writer.   Other women started telling tales of other writers and editors, a legendary editor too free with his hands and more.

This is not the column that I intended to make as my first.  Heck, we haven’t even been introduced yet.  My first column was going to be a nice, leisurely talk about who I am, what I’ve done in comics and what I hope to do and of course what this column is going to be about.    That column is coming, but this column called to me to be written.  Right now people are talking about this subject, it needs to be talked about, it needs to continue to be talked about, I wanted to do my small part to make sure we keep talking about it.

One of the first questions that come up whenever this subject is broached is why don’t the women report it?  There are a lot of answers to this question.   If you’re a beginning creator you don’t want to be thought of causing trouble.   Will they believe it?  You should have known better.   All of this will be thought and asked of you.  If you don’t believe me, find some of the comments made on the comic sites that have reported on this issue.  So many of the posters try to turn it back on the woman.   It’s a he said she said they want to claim.   She should have known better.  It was just harmless flirting.

I want to pose a situation.  If as a writer I’m meeting an editor at a con that expressed interest in my work at his table and he tells me that it’s too busy to talk now but we should meet later for drinks to discuss my work what should I expect?   As a male I would go to that meeting without worrying that I was about to be hit on.  I wouldn’t think that I would have to do anything more than write to get the job.  And no one would think otherwise.  So now let’s take this same situation except for one small difference, instead of me, a male, we replace the creator with a woman.  Same situation, the editor is familiar enough with her work to express a desire to discuss it more.   The timing is crazy, he’s manning a table at the con, so he suggests meeting later for drinks to talk  about future work together.   She goes to the meeting, hopeful and eager, to make this advance in her career.  The editor has other ideas.  She can get work he tells her, but perhaps they should continue this discussion in his hotel room.   Something from her will go a long way to getting work he suggests.   Now if she reports it what will be the most common theme?  She should have known better.  He was asking her to drinks.  What did she think he was suggesting?   But why should it be different than if I went?  Because I’m a male and she’s a female.  We’re both professionals looking to advance our careers.  She shouldn’t have to expect any different treatment than I would.

So why not name names?   If it happens the woman should call the man out, let everyone know who it was.  Again we’re turning it back on the victim in the situation.  We’re making it about why she doesn’t do something, not about what was done to her.  There is a real fear that such a situation could result in less work.   Name names and the work may disappear.   It’s a real fear.

One common theme running through a lot of these statements from so many women is that they were told about this male artist or that male writer or that male editor as someone to stay away from.   I don’t know about any of you but what I take away from that is that it is known to happen but it gets swept under the rug.  It’s played off as harmless flirting, he didn’t really mean anything by it, he was drunk or a million and half other excuses.   I mentioned that there is talk about an editor from the silver age, a man considered by most as a legend, and his behavior towards women.   One of the most disappointing things concerning this now for me is his defenders, many big name creators that write his actions off as nothing serious, just harmless play.  Men that I have a lot of admiration and respect for, men who do more than just talk the talk but walk the walk.   There are too many women out there that don’t consider his actions just harmless fun.

So all I did was ask her out and she’s making it into a big thing?    If you are an editor in a position to give her work than it’s inappropriate.  If you are a writer telling her you can help her get work it’s inappropriate.    More than inappropriate, it’s wrong.  You don’t have to necessarily be able to hire her, if the perception is that you can help her career and you use it to your advantage than it’s wrong.

If you’re a man and reading this you’re probably thinking that it’s not all men that do this sort of thing.  It’s probably not even the majority of men.   And that’s the first words used when this subject comes up.  When women start talking about this men start trying to explain that it’s not all men, it’s just some men, it’s just a few men.   Well, no one is saying it’s all men.  But when a man kills someone does the newscasters open their news with the fact that it’s not all men that kill, just a few.  We know that.  Using this as an argument is just trying to deflect attention from the real problem.

In my real job I work in the retail world.  While I’m not about to claim this sort of stuff doesn’t happen where I work, because it does, the difference seems to be that when it does happen something is done about it.  People lose their job.  Why does a man that tries to pull the top off a female creator still have his job?   Why would any woman want to name names, report the abuse when they see the punishment is a slap on the wrist, and the man is back out on the prowl continuing his same actions.

It’s time to get over the wink wink nudge nudge attitude.  It’s time to stop warning women about men that they know are predators.  It’s time something is done.  At the start I said it was time for men to step up.  And it is.   This is not going to be stopped by women naming names.  It’s going to be stopped when the men that know what is going on refuse to allow it to continue.  Stop turning a blind eye.  Stop saying it’s boys being boys.  Stop pretending it’s all harmless fun.  Stop saying she should have known better.   Stop allowing it!

We write and draw stories about heroes.  We create men and women that reflect the best in us.  We give them words that champion truth and justice.   Is all just empty wind?  Do we not believe any of what we create?   Maybe it’s time we tried to live up to the expectations of our creations.



John Holland is a comic book writer with credits from such publishers as Fantagraphics, Innovation, Malibu, Comic Zone, Kitchen Sink and others.  The problem is that you probably haven’t heard of most of those publishers, they’ve been out of business for years.  He’s trying to get back into writing and currently is writing the webcomic Skye Bleu which can be found at  And isn’t that logo by Steven Butler cool?

John Holland

John Holland's first professional work in comics was a backup story drawn by Sam Kieth and published in William Messener Loebs JOURNEY. He went on to write a continuing series for Fantagraphics CRITTERS comic and work with Kitchen Sink, Innovation, Malibu, Comic Zone and others. He wrote the Christmas issue of the QUANTUM LEAP comic based on the popular TV show. For COMIC CAREER NEWSLETTER he wrote an ongoing column. He self published two issues of DIEBOLD with artist Brian Clifton with covers by Sam Keith and Mike Zeck. All this was just as the internet was getting off the ground. He remembers the comic professional group on Compuserve, but today who even remembers Compuserve? There was no Facebook, at that time there wasn't even a My Space. Than he quietly disappeared from the comic book scene. Now many years later, and with the addition of Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and a thousand and one other social networks, he is trying to prove that there can be second acts. He's hoping that the saying you can't teach an old dog new tricks is not always true. With his new try at making a go at this industry of comic making he is embracing all the new platforms and is trying to learn all the new tricks. He is currently writing the webcomic Skye Bleu (found at and Diebold ( and working on a few more that are in various stages of development.

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