Naming Names

The Comics Journal finally names names in the groping scandal that’s resulted in lots of chest-puffing and finger-pointing online.

As much as organizers have worked quickly to research the legalities of the [Friends of Lulu “Empowerment” Fund] and place it on firm ground, it’s hard to deny that it has come about out of desperation; it is the result of a profound wish to have something good come out of the sordid misery that in tiny increments and one unretractable leap has overtaken the lives of at least two people. One of these people is Taki Soma, a 30-year-old Minneapolis-based beginning comics artist (Silent Forest for Silent Devil Productions, The West Side for Redoubt Studio). The other person is Charles Brownstein, who as the devoted and energetic executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, is a highly respected figure in the comics industry.

Although this is a terrible situation all around, I applaud the Journal for its in-depth journalism (no pun intended) and its willingness to go on the record instead of making allusions that were subject to misinterpretation (and the resulting likelihood of the wrong people being “identified”, an element covered in their thorough story). They also report why charges weren’t filed — and it’s not because of the situation crossing state lines.

The information [the Ohio detective] provided solved the mystery of why the case had been closed and no witness reported, but raised an even bigger mystery. According to the un-redacted report, at the end of Soma’s account of the incident to police, her last words were that she did not want to pursue criminal charges. To police, that meant the investigation was over.

Because of the continuing questions this report raises, I cannot in good conscience support the FOL fund. Right now, the outspoken Vice-President who’s been publicizing this case has said that “all monies given to the fund will be used in Taki Soma’s civil case, paying for legal advice, representation, and any other associated fees that may arise.” Her experience sounds as though it was terrible for her, and I hope that she’s able to get the resolution she needs… but I don’t wish to take sides to such a degree in this kind of situation. (Not to mention that the fund doesn’t square with what I know of the FOL’s legal status and mission as a non-profit, and it seems to need a lot more support and planning than it got at its start.)

The Journal piece is must reading, so go now before they take it offline.

12 Responses to “Naming Names”

  1. Scott Hassler Says:

    this brownstein guy has for the most part probably ruined his career. glad i gave up the sauce before i started pursuing a comics career. although i never forced myself on women, i definitely engaged in blacklisting behavior before i settled down.

    im sure this guy feels terrible for what he did. and it definitely sounds like alcoholic behavior to me, which is often displayed by people who are otherwise incredible individuals until the booze takes over.

    unfortunately, in our society, and especially in close knit micro societys like comics is, once you bear the scarlet letter, its nigh impossible to cast it off.

    no matter if brownstein sobers up for it and redeems himself 1000 times over, most will associate him as being the guy who sexually assaulted taki soma. and rightfully so in my book. it is sexual assault after all, not puking on joe quesada or something.

  2. Gus Dahlberg Says:

    Scott: I think it’s a bit of a stretch to jump from Dean’s description of events in the TCJ article to “alcoholic behavior”, as you describe it. Nothing there suggests that Brownstein is an alcoholic; at worst, he was intoxicated on that particular occasion. Given the already heated and confused discussion surrounding this story, it’s probably best to stick only to facts as stated, and not to read things that aren’t there.

    Johanna: thanks for the pointer; I probably would have missed this until later in the week. It’s a good piece; why do you suppose that TCJ is indicating they’re going to redact portions of the online story for print, but not leave the full version up on the web indefinitely?

  3. Johanna Says:

    Scott, you’re assuming that one side of the story, the one you heard first, is the correct one. I agree with you that “alcoholic behavior” had a lot to do with it, but that appears to apply to *everyone* involved.

    Gus, I don’t know why TCJ is making that choice (although I could guess the obvious reason: to drive magazine sales) but I think it’s a poor one.

  4. Scott Hassler Says:

    oh i beg to differ. what was takis crime? drinking and hanging out with 2 men she trusted?

    thats the same sort of attitude as the “well did you see how she was dressed? she deserved it!” arguement and im very surprised to hear that coming from you.

    even if she was drunk off her ass its no excuse for what he did.

    and yes, its quite easy to call his actions alcoholic behavior. blacked out and acting aggressively and sexually aggressive are BIG TIME indicators of alcoholic drinking.

    i do not know a substance abuse professional (and i know many) who would diagnose it as anything but.

  5. Johanna Says:

    Scott, you’re so eager to take sides that you’re reading things no one wrote. I’m not saying “she deserved to be groped” — I’m saying that I’m no longer convinced her story, as presented in the online media, is exactly what happened. It’s possible he was drunk and did something inappropriate; it’s also possible that she did.

    The biggest question right now, in my opinion, is why Soma’s spokeswoman said that “she didn’t refuse to press charges” when the police say that’s exactly why the case wasn’t pursued.

  6. Scott Hassler Says:

    “I agree with you that “alcoholic behavior” had a lot to do with it, but that appears to apply to *everyone* involved.”

    what i took from this statement is that she was also engaged in alcoholic behavior, therefore tainting her side of the story.

    did you know that as of 5 years ago there were still 3 states in america where a man couldnt be charged with rape if his alleged victim was drunk? what do you think of that?

    maybe im not seeing this correctly but it sure seems as if your really stretching to defend this brownstein guy and assume the worst of soma. any reason?

  7. Johanna Says:

    Scott, why is everything so black and white with you? If everyone’s drunk, everyone’s memories are suspect, and everyone may have exercised bad judgment or misinterpreted a situation. You seem to want to believe this of the guy but not of the girl.

    I’m defending Brownstein in this conversation because you’ve been bound and determined to believe everything reported about Soma, regardless of whether it contradicts the police statements or how often her vocal supporters have contradicted themselves. I’m trying to show you a more balanced viewpoint.

    I’ve said several times that I’m very sorry for Soma, whatever happened, because evidently it was traumatic for her. That doesn’t mean she’s above question or not responsible in some way for how this all has played out.

  8. Brownstein’s Response » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] up on the Journal coverage of gropegate, Newsarama posts Brownstein’s side of the story, including his apology. I feigned to lift up […]

  9. Jackie Estrada Says:

    As one of the founding board members of Friends of Lulu, I recall that under the type of nonprofit charter we chose, we would be unable to set up something like the proposed fund. FoL is an educational nonprofit. As such, we weren’t even able to donate to the CBLDF without violating our charter. I haven’t been involved with FoL for several years now, so it’s possible that subsequent boards changed its type of nonprofit status but that would be pretty difficult.

    Jackie Estrada

  10. Johanna Says:

    Jackie, thank you for that background, although it only raises more questions.

  11. Scott Hassler Says:

    im seeing this in black and white because its a black and white situation.

    go to a high school or college campus and ask about their sexual harrassment policy. i think youll find it is zero tolerance.

    ask about the anti- date rape measures being taken, chances are youll see posters saying things like “no means no, no excuses”

    even if, it was exactly as brownstein stated, it is to much. this isnt just my opinion johanna, its the law and also our new societal norm.

    im not advocating hanging brownstein or even sending him to prison. i do feel however, for me and my $$, if cbldf keeps this guy on they lose beaucoup credibility.

    if he was such an honorable guy hed know how badly he screwed up and offer to step down so as to avoid any further embarrassment to his employer because of this situation.

  12. Johanna Says:

    It’s only black and white if you believe everything she says and nothing he does. I’m familiar with sexual harassment policies in the real world, Scott, since I manage a team in the business world and have been through several rounds of policy training. First you have to determine the facts of the situation, and given the discrepancies in the reporting (the biggest being, in my opinion, why her defenders claimed she pressed charges when the police say she didn’t), those are no longer clear to observers.




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