The Way Forward

It would be easy – altogether far too easy – not to post this. The events I’m talking about are a week old and, with the world on fire, a week may as well be a thousand years in internet time. But not posting something like this is what helps it to keep happening, so here it is…

For longer than I’ve been a published writer, Mike Mignola has been the biggest influence there was on my work. His own work on Hellboy changed the way I thought about horror, folklore, weird fiction, and what I could accomplish with all of the above. If it weren’t for Mignola, I would have a very different career, to say the least.

What’s more, over the years, I was lucky enough to get to know him a little, and we became, if not friends, then at least friendly. He commented on my Facebook, we chatted at conventions and sometimes talked via Messenger. He has always been nice to me, and has always seemed like a genuinely decent person.

All of which makes what is going on right now so much more difficult. Last week, Shawna Gore came forward with a brave testimony about Scott Allie’s mistreatment, harassment, and sexual assault of her while they were both editors at Dark Horse.

For those who don’t follow the Mignolaverse doings as closely as I do, Scott Allie was Mike’s editor on pretty much everything he did for nearly a quarter of a century, and continued to work on Mignolaverse titles after he was no longer acting as an editor at Dark Horse.

Everyone, including Mike, immediately did the thing you do when something like this happens, which is, unfortunately, all too frequent nowadays: They posted that they believed Shawna, that they had no idea how bad things were, that they were severing all ties with Allie going forward, the whole nine yards.

You can read Mike’s post about the matter on his website at the moment, and the official response from Dark Horse on their Twitter. As almost always happens when this happens, though, Shawna’s testimony wasn’t the end of the story. Instead, it opened the floodgates.

That’s the thing about these situations. There are always floodgates. The hand-wringers and the whatabouters will fret endlessly about a false accusation (which are vanishingly rare anyway) destroying the career of a “good man.” But when these things come to light, it almost always exposes, not a single instance of poor judgement or misconduct, but a known pattern of behavior stretching back years.

John Arcudi and Guy Davis both came forward, publicly stating that Mike and Dark Horse knew about Allie’s behavior and chose to do nothing. Those aren’t just random names. They’re both folks who had worked closely with Mike and, by extension, Allie for years. Guy Davis even says that he quit comics over it, and his timeline certainly adds up.

What’s more, this isn’t the first time that Allie has gotten into trouble about this. Back in 2015, he sexually assaulted comic writer Joe Harris – who readers of this site may know as the guy who wrote the 2003 movie Darkness Falls – while drunk at a convention.

When that story broke, Allie’s history of misbehavior and harassment burst out of the whisper network and became public knowledge. Allie blamed alcoholism and went into rehab, or so the story goes, and everyone seems to have been all-too-willing to accept that explanation, and assume that Allie had done enough to make amends. Until, of course, it all came out again.

When confronted with these things, Mike has unfortunately either remained silent thus far or dug down behind his website statement. There are people saying that Mike absolutely knew more than he’s letting on, and other people saying that he was intentionally kept from the truth by Allie and others. For every person saying, “you knew, I told you,” there is someone else saying, “I kept it from you because you and he were friends.”

Even if we believe – as I am inclined to do, because of my own biases and blind spots – that Mike didn’t realize the extent of the problem because he couldn’t see it due to his biases and blind spots, as he claims in his website statement, we are still faced with a serious problem.

This sort of situation is exactly what allows these crimes to continue year after year, claiming victim after victim. The good ol’ boy network that makes it too easy to turn a blind eye when the rumors are about someone with whom you are on friendly terms, or who has always treated you well. It’s a set of biases and blind spots that we all have to work harder to interrogate and avoid.

I’ve also seen a number of people who worked with Allie saying that he was – as so many predators and abusers are – good at hiding and manipulating. “And he was so, SO good at using us against each other. And at cultivating relationships he could use as shields,” Jay Edidin posted on Twitter. “If you worked with him and didn’t see this: that’s not your fault.”

Creator Michael Avon Oeming shared a lengthy thread about being manipulated and lied to by Allie, about his regret over not realizing how bad things were sooner. Colorist Dave Stewart – who is nearly as synonymous with the Hellboy books as Mike himself – posted that he had to “dig around” to learn about Allie’s transgressions.

So, maybe Mike genuinely didn’t have any idea. I want to believe that he didn’t, so badly. But even if that’s true, we’re still left with this: cutting ties with Allie now just isn’t enough.

“Comics need to do better,” Mike writes in his website statement. “We all need to be more accountable.” That starts here and now, not the next time.

As one of the most successful independent creators in the business, Mike had – and still has – the power and position to help make a real difference in this toxic culture of enabling predation that exists throughout comics. He chose not to act earlier. He needs to take drastic action to help now.

What’s more, however culpable Mike may or may not have been, Dark Horse is much more so. If Mike probably knew – or turned a blind eye without knowing what he was turning it to – then Dark Horse had to know, and willingly covered for Allie, continuing to employ him for years after his behavior was already public knowledge in 2015.

As part of their public statement, Dark Horse said that they were going to have a “zero tolerance” policy going forward, to which someone on Twitter immediately pointed out the name of another known harasser who works for them and said, “So they’re fired now, right?”

Here’s the thing about adopting a “zero tolerance” policy: it implies that you previously had a “tolerance” policy, which, in this instance, was obviously the case. A zero tolerance policy, like firing Scott Allie and not working with him again, is the bare minimum here. Both Dark Horse and Mike need to do more than the minimum.

We want to believe the very best about those companies and people who create the stuff that we love, the stuff that means the most to us. But we need to base those beliefs on who they actually are and what they actually do, not any affection we have for them. They need to be worthy of our admiration.

The last line of Mike’s website statement says, “As a creator I need to do better, I need to set a better example, both in the stories I tell and the people I choose to tell them with.” He’s right. Let’s hope that starts now.

1 comment
  1. clevermanka said:

    This is a tough one, Orrin, and it sucks that you’re having to grapple with it, even tangentially. Thank you for speaking out.

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