Controversy around the treatment of women in the world of comics is not something new. From the uncomfortable and sometimes confusing exploitation of female characters to the mistreatment of women working in the field by executives, editors, and other higher-ups; it seems the industry can’t go a day without some heat. Still, the new accusations against writer Brian Wood (X-men, Channel Zero) come as hard news for several people to swallow. Thought by many to be a strong voice for feminism in comics, a recent tweet by comic artist Tess Fowler (Charmed, Grimm Fairy Tales) accuses Wood of attempting to coax Fowler up to a hotel room with promises of talking about her career in the industry at 2005’s San Diego Comicon.
The first word of this came in late October when Fowler posted on her twitter she had been harassed by a “well known artist” at San Diego Comic Con some years prior. While keeping Wood’s name out initially, Fowler later reported that she received emails from three different women claiming similar events had occurred with Wood. Fowler dropped the bomb on November 13th in a tweet that stated “I’m going to say it. And fuck anyone who doesn’t like it. Brian Wood is a DICK. And he’s preyed on women for too long.”
The reveal was a strange and hard thing for many people to hear. Brian Wood has a large collection of works that involve female protagonist, and most recently has been writing an X-Men run with an all female cast. Still, Fowler claims that Wood not only attempted to get her into a hotel room with promises to talk about her future in the industry, but once she refused, harassed her at her booth and mocked both her cosplay hobby and artwork.
Wood was quick to respond to these accusations, stating that while he did make an advance on Fowler, it did not go down the way that she claimed.
“Tess Fowler is correct about this: I did make a pass at her at [the San Diego Comic-Con] Hyatt bar roughly 8 years ago.” Wood stated in a press release. “But when she declined, that was the conclusion of the matter for me. There was never a promise of quid pro quo, no exertion of power, no threats, and no revenge.”
While Wood claims that he is worried that this event may “take attention away from that industry-wide discussion [on sexual harassment] that needs to happen,” it seems to have kicked off a surge of commentary by several people in the field. New Ms. Marvel writer (and recent recipient of harassment for her new storyline) G Willow Wilson posted a response on her blog.
“When I began to take a serious interest in comics, back in the late 90s-early 00s misogyny was considered cool.” said Willow “The great tragedy is that so many women were led to believe that they had to use sex and/or sexuality to make any professional headway. They were led to believe that the traditional routes to success (hard work, networking, talent) were literally closed to them.”
Other prominent figures in the comic community have also spoken up about the problem of sexual harassment in the industry after Fowler’s story was posted. These include former DC Comics editor Heidi MacDonald, and Former Dark Horse editor Rachel Edidin, an eight year comic industry veteran who has offered her assistance as a trained rape crisis center volunteer and constant convention goer to anyone who finds themselves in any type of sexual harassment situation at conventions.
“If you are being actively harassed or are in immediate danger, I will help you find a safe place.” promised Edidin on her blog. “If you want to report what happened to convention staff or law enforcement, I will help you find the right channels and, if you want, accompany you through that process. If you need medical attention or crisis intervention, I will help you find that, and, if you want, accompany you. I will listen. I will believe you. And I will help if I can.”
As this story has unfolded and the different takes and opinions have come flooding in from fans and industry personalities, Fowler has released a statement saying she would be able to let Wood have the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t know his behavior was inappropriate, as long as the discussion that the event has inspired is not forgotten.
“So how about we use this opportunity to link arms and work towards finding ways to fix this?” said Folwer in her follow up response. “Open discussions, and a devotion to never letting such behavior stand. Forgiveness for those men who can admit the wrong doing and want to make a change. Togetherness. One tribe. One family. Because I think everyone reading this wants the same thing. For those funny books we grew up on to be a thriving, healthy modern business full of all kinds of creative people and personalities.”