A Statement Regarding Chris Sims and His Harassment of Val D’Orazio
It’s always tempting to imagine oneself as the hero of the story.
That vanity is one of the major obstacles to civil online discourse, and to the shift to a climate of tolerance in the comic industry that we always advocate for. A person can convince themselves that their crusade is righteous, even when their behavior is indefensible. Finding ways to break through those walls and lead people towards better behavior is part of our progression towards a better industry.
Several years ago, when ComicsAlliance senior writer Chris Sims was an independent comics blogger, he tried to spark a feud with another blogger, Val D’Orazio. In doing so, he directly and indirectly contributed to a climate of hostility that damaged D’Orazio’s quality of life. By his own admission, he crossed the line from professional criticism into personal harassment, at one point leaving the comment, “Go cry about it, Val.”
We condemn this behavior without reservation. Online harassment is a serious problem, and in the comic industry in particular it has created a climate of hostility that alienates the marginalized and vulnerable, and damages us all. Harassment doesn’t always have its roots in conscious discrimination. Sometimes it’s simply a case of trying to take on someone you perceive as powerful, and not appreciating your own power, or that the other person has less power than you believed.
We would all do well to understand this. When we think we’re being righteous, often we’re only persecuting someone who does not deserve our venom.
Chris understands this now, and has understood it for years. He ended his harassment of D’Orazio several years ago. He has issued an apology on his own blog in an overdue attempt to make amends, and will issue a second statement and apology shortly via this site. We know Chris, so we know that his apology is sincere, though we cannot and would not insist that others believe or accept it.
The apology did not come out of nowhere. It was initially made in direct response to David Gallaher, a comics writer and D’Orazio’s husband, who contacted Chris to warn him that someone was threatening to expose Chris as a bully following the news of Chris’s recently announced Marvel writing assignment — despite the fact that everything they sought to “expose” is on the public record. We were also aware of this campaign to target Chris, as Twitter accounts were created and later deleted solely to further this campaign, and messages were sent to Chris, David, their friends, and the editors of ComicsAlliance.
Someone was targeting Chris not out of a sense of justice, but because they wanted to destroy his success. The campaign may also have been one of several efforts we’re aware of to discredit ComicsAlliance. These are not the tactics of progressives concerned about harassment in comics, but of agitators looking to tear down progressive voices — of which Chris is certainly one — using methods of harassment. (Notably, the messages referred to D’Orazio as “David’s wife,” rather than recognizing her as a person in her own right.)
No doubt these people also see themselves as the heroes of their stories. They are not. We cannot lend legitimacy to their behavior.
Chris is not the man he was when he directed his vitriol at Val D’Orazio. If he were that man, or if he felt no remorse for his past actions, he wouldn’t belong at today’s ComicsAlliance, given our strong avocation against harassment in the industry.
But Chris is a great example of something else we believe in very much; progress. Chris has shown the necessary intelligence and sensitivity to evolve. He was an early advocate for the positive change that is now taking over the industry.
Yesterday we wrote about the need to leave behind those people who will not change to embrace the new shape of the industry. The other side of this is that we must bring along with us those people who will change. We must be open to reconciliation.
We believe that the future is bright for the comic industry, and that comics are for everyone — even those who made the industry an uncomfortable place for others in the past, so long as they reject their past action and show remorse and a desire to do better.
We believe that Chris embodies that sort of change. It would go against everything we write and fight for if we did not support Chris today, even as we condemn how he conducted himself in the past.
We believe in progress. We won’t reject that ideal to appease people who don’t share our beliefs.
We at ComicsAlliance send Val D’Orazio our hope for her future health and happiness, and we applaud her for speaking up about her harassment. Talking about these experiences is difficult to do, and often difficult to hear, but victims of harassment must be encouraged to share their stories without prejudice or the fear of further harassment. Thank you for speaking up, Val.
Andrew Wheeler, Editor-in-Chief
Janelle Asselin, Senior Editor