Comics Writer Brian Wood Releases Statement About Accusations of Sexual Harassment
A couple of weeks ago cartoonist Tess Fowler tweeted that she had been sexually harassed at a comic convention by a well-known comics writer some years earlier. At that time, she did not name the other party. ComicsAlliance's Matt D. Wilson was among those to write about Fowler's widely reported commentary as part of a vital discussion about the culture of misogyny and sexual harassment that pervades the comic book industry, and what might be done to punish offenders and make the industry safer and more inclusive for women.
Earlier this week, after receiving emails from three other women describing similar troubling experiences with the same male comics writer, Fowler chose to identify him by name. The writer is Brian Wood.
Wood has now released a statement admitting to having “made a pass” at Fowler in the past. He denies accusations of harassment and abuse.
The writer of the all-female X-Men (2013) and numerous other comics starring women protagonists such as Channel Zero, Mara and Local, Wood's work and reputation are strongly tied to an advocacy for women characters and collaborators, which made Fowler's claims shocking to many. Specifically, Fowler accused Wood of "feigning interest" in her "pursuit of a comic career" at a convention as a prelude to some kind of rendezvous in his hotel room. Fowler said that when she refused his advances, Wood angrily accosted her at her booth on the convention floor and later claimed to have never been impressed by her artwork and mocked her cosplay hobby.
"He was mad that I'd been afraid of him," tweeted Fowler, later adding, "I look at his career and the way he's touted as a feminist and I cringe."
Fowler identified Wood by name on Wednesday. He released a statement today, which we're republishing here:
For the last couple weeks I’ve been accused of a lot of very serious things. I feel I have to speak up for myself and for my friends and colleagues who are finding themselves under a sort of scrutiny they don’t deserve. This situation has reached the point where it is affecting people who in no way deserve it, up to and including my family.
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. 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. This was at a time in my career when I had very little professional power or industry recognition. The pickup was a lame move, absolutely, and I’ll accept the heat for having done it, but that’s all it was: I liked her, I took a chance, and was shot down. I immediately regretted it, and I apologize to Ms. Fowler for the tackiness and embarrassment of it all.
I’ve kept quiet for these last couple weeks because this is a problematic thing to address without unintended blowback. While I believe she is as incorrect as she can be about what my intent and motivations were, I don’t want to encourage any negative opinion directed back at her.
I think the larger issues of abuse in the comics industry are genuine and I share everyone's concerns. As a father to a young daughter showing an interest in making her own comics, I do really care about this stuff. So I don’t want our difference of accounts to take attention away from that industry-wide discussion that needs to happen.
Several women in the industry have addressed the topic in the last few days in many tweets and blog posts. Journalist and former DC Comics editor Heidi MacDonald wrote a cogent and compelling piece based on her own experience and reporting, including references to the enduringly damning "open secret" of American comics that, as MacDonald puts it, "at one super mega comics publisher, many of the top execs have had huge human resources files and nothing has been done about it."
Incoming Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson has also published must-read remarks about the broader topic of sexism and harassment. "We have to stop telling ourselves that this is just the way the world works, because it isn’t," wrote Wilson. She added, "There is nothing a man has to offer a woman professionally that can’t be discussed in a public place. Nothing."
Former Dark Horse editor and ComicsAlliance contributor Rachel Edidin wrote an impassioned post that puts the onus on changing the culture of systemic sexism and harassment squarely on men. "When you see harassment and abuse, and you are in a position to call it out and effect actual consequences, and you don’t, you don’t get to be a good guy anymore. You have become part of the problem. You are why this s*** persists -- every f***ing bit as much as the people perpetrating it."
For her part, Fowler says her naming a specific person should not distract from dismantling the underlying sexism, misogyny and harassment that's heretofore been relatively undiscussed in the comic book business. Immediately following her outing of Wood as the alleged offender, Fowler wrote via Twitter, "And f*** any other pro who thinks that he has a right to sexual favors because he writes funny books. [Women creators] are more valuable than that. And any industry that would blacklist you for calling out a lying sack of misogynistic pig offal (or his ilk) isn't worth a good god DAMN." She continued, "If you're an editor/publisher and you know you have a predator in your stage of talent, REIN. HIM. IN. Or else you're to blame too" and "If you want women to feel safe in comics, start making some top tier changes to prove it. That's STEP ONE." She concluded that series of tweets with, "CLEAN IT UP, gentlemen."
Wherever one may fall on the specifics of the Fowler/Wood incident, it has sparked a larger conversation about the pervasive nature of sexual harassment in comics, and the code of silence that so often surrounds it.
UPDATE: Tess Fowler has published a new blog post titled "My Response" which contains her more specific account of the incident, as well as the following conclusion which speaks to the crux of her earlier remarks and those of the women whose commentary is excerpted above:
I’m going to give [Wood] the benefit of the doubt here and say maybe he really just has no clue that his behavior was wrong, or could have such a lasting affect on someone who once looked up to him. I can believe that. And I can believe a lot of men reading this, in positions like Brian’s, might feel the same way.
So how about we use this opportunity to link arms and work towards finding ways to fix this? 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.