When the panels are tainted by real life evil

February 8, 2018

by Avi Green

This past November, Hollywood experienced a considerable discovery of sexual abuse scandals as it turned out movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was guilty of quite possible more than 100 cases of sexual harassment and assault. It all led to a cascade of more revelations and accusations, and has ended the careers of several more once notable actors and filmmakers, including Kevin Spacey, Bryan Singer, Brett Ratner, and many more. Clearly, the Stephen Collins and Bill Cosby scandals were just the beginning.

But even in the world of comicdom, there've been at least a few nasty sex scandal revelations turning up, which I'm going to list here.

Josue “Justiniano” Rivera
An artist who was working mainly for DC (and signed a lot of his work under the pseudonym “Justiniano”), he was arrested in 2011 for possession of child porn and convicted a year later, serving at least 5 years. Looking at his past record, I can't say I feel sorry he went down, because one of the books he drew was Day of Vengeance, which followed up on Identity Crisis and depicted Jean Loring being transformed into a female Eclipso, and a most one-dimensional type too at that. If that's the kind of book he was willing to illustrate (with Bill Willingham as the writer), it could explain his mentality involving the child porn found on his computer equipment.

One of the last projects Justiniano was going to work on was a miniseries for Wonder Woman written by 2 ladies, and it was almost completed when he got arrested, resulting in a situation where it was reportedly too expensive to have it redrawn by a different artist, so they had to cancel it altogether. Needless to say, it's utterly offensive that not only did DC's staff go to such lengths to publish a miniseries offensive to victims of rape and child abuse in the form of IC, they even gave a pervert the assignment to write one of comicdom's most famous ladies.

Gerard Jones
He may have once been given high regard as the writer of Green Lantern, Wonder Man and at least 2 Justice League titles from the early 1990s. Or was he? Whatever, the former comics scribe who later became a novelist was arrested on December 29, 2016 for possession of child porn and uploading it to the internet, and was also suspected by police of traveling to London and committing child molestation/rape. It was absolutely disgusting news, and today I feel embarrassed if I ever considered his past work a masterpiece. I later did some deeper research and concluded it wasn't. The Emerald Dawn miniseries, which he wrote the majority of with Keith Giffen (Christopher Priest wrote the first issue but was replaced; it's not clear whether it was because he turned in the scripts late), was a very forced, sloppy attempt to retell Hal Jordan's origins for a modern age, where he gets arrested for drunk driving and spends some time in the pen. And around this time, having acquired the magic ring and lantern from Abin Sur, he's subsequently given training by...Sinestro! It was decidedly stilted, the product of a mindset that thought modern audiences couldn't connect if the hero supposedly didn't have flaws, and was laced with utmost character economy to boot (Guy Gardner turns up as a “case worker”. I'm not sure if that's similar to a lawyer or a social worker). Some of these elements kept on into the 3rd Green Lantern volume that followed. Jones' work in the Justice League titles was more disturbing, with a scene where it looks like at least one villain is trying to grope Power Girl's breasts in one scene. Even Wonder Man had a questionable story involving a crook who was written to resemble an evil capitalist for the sake of it. I've got a feeling the writings of Jones, if anything, won't age well, if at all. Certainly not the stories he wrote for Malibu Comics in the 90s.

Indeed, the Malibu products could be hit the hardest by Jones' arrest: who'll want to buy them nowadays? I checked a list of his writings, and he created or co-created 4-5 different series in their Ultraverse line, and guest wrote a number of issues on several other series. If my estimates are correct, that could amount to nearly half their inventory, and as a result, could easily taint much of it. Don't be surprised if Marvel, who, last time I looked, still owned their products, won't be able to sell them off at ease. As for his work at DC and Marvel, some planned Green Lantern and Justice League reprints were cancelled (and the Wonder Man and Hulk 2099 series will surely gather dust too), and there's no telling if and when they'll ever be, but at this point, it's just too hard to care. Like I said, I reevaluated his work, and concluded it was pretentious, including the first storyline in GL volume 3, where a character created by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams (the Guardian named Appa Ali Apsa), was turned into a crazy, lethal villain for the sake of getting from point A to point B.

Nobuhiro Watsuki
This case of a comic creator implicating himself in a child porn scandal is one that took place across the ocean in Japan. Watsuki (whose real last name may actually be Nishiwaki), once famous for creating the manga series Rurouni Kenshin in the 1990s, was arrested by Tokyo police in November 2017 on charges of child porn possession, as at least 100 files of live action videos were discovered in his office and house. Some of the commentaries I found about the news suggested he may have even preyed on girls in school, and during police interrogations, he blatantly admitted he had a liking for underaged girls. Sick man indeed. As far as I know, Japan passed laws against possession of child pornography in 2014, and the news items indicated he bought his stash a year after, meaning he broke the law from a legal perspective. In any event, what he did would be obscene from a moral perspective any time.

His crime has since cost him his fame and fortunes, as the manga anthology publishing a sequel to Kenshin suspended it from publication, a Japanese cable channel canceled a planned marathon for 3 live action film adaptations, and reprints of his work are bound to cease for at least a while. I once watched the anime adaptations of Kenshin a number of years ago, and there was one scene in the latter half of the run that was disturbing: a variation on Mark Twain's Prince and the Pauper, where Yahiko was supposed to dress up as royalty at the behest of a prince and his elderly aide, which involved yanking off his clothes to redress him. And what was alarming was that the way the scene – which may have come before the commercial break – was set up, made it look like the old guy was going to rape him. The worst part is that this was apparently supposed to be funny. If Watsuki had no qualms about that disgusting moment, then in light of the new discoveries, it only compounds the negative image he's achieved even more. Even the adaptation of Busou Renkin had a few moments that were annoying, though still nothing compared to what Kenshin's animators thought would be entertaining. That scene in Rurouni Kenshin was practically offensive to victims of sexual assault. As of today, I can't feel sorry Watsuki is now facing consequences for his felonies.

Eddie Berganza
While the above 3 are examples of freelancers, Berganza is one example of a top editor at DC who committed sexual harassment and assault, and only recently did he finally pay a price, and that was only after Buzzfeed wrote up an article about his offensive acts, and DC's failure to get rid of him. His acts took place as far back as the early 2000s, yet nothing was done to get rid of him, he even got promoted at one point, and after being demoted following an obnoxious assault he performed on a lady at a bar while drunk, not only did they still not fire him, what they did instead was create a “women-free” zone in which he'd work. Which solves virtually nothing, and does nada to restore any confidence.

And recalling that this began at the time Identity Crisis went to press, you could easily ask: if DC could publish a book that was offensive to victims of rape and child abuse, should we be shocked they'd tolerate such a vile man working on their staff?

Scott Allie
This former senior editor-in-chief at Dark Horse was also unmasked as a serial abuser who was never disciplined for his own violence, and when he left the company, it was rather quiet, on-own-terms. Following the Weinstein scandal, that's when Image, who'd originally hired him as a special editor on one of their projects, decided to fire him, and Dark Horse, presumably, did the same, but much too late. And the head of Dark Horse never sounded convincing in his own response to the reports of Allie's deviations from sane society.

The really sad part is that sexual abuse in comicdom is unlikely to end even after these revelations, and we could soon be hearing of more. So long as some of the worst executives continue to reign at the Big Two, along with smaller pubishers, nothing proper will be done to put a stop to these awful cases.

Copyright 2018 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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