Why I Still Boycott Avatar

Just something to remember, given recent discussions about unethical publisher behavior… Avatar and publisher William Christensen has a long history of similar actions (over ten years’ worth), something too many people were willing to forget when he started publishing creators like Warren Ellis.

After discussing these problems with Pollard, Sharpe said he received an admonishing phone call from Christensen. It seemed there was a clause in Sharpe’s contract which forbid his discussing Avatar problems with other professionals in the industry…. Pollard and Sharpe were later shocked when they visited the Avatar Press website to find the original artwork they were fighting for [based on Christensen’s verbal promises] was being offered for sale to the public.

(I was hanging out on Usenet when Christensen started threatening to sue people who expressed sympathy to Pat Quinn over his stolen artwork, by the way. Too bad all those messages aren’t in Google’s archives any more.)

At least it’s easy to ignore Avatar’s work, given their reliance on crappy bad girl titles with overpriced variant covers. Even when a “name” is involved in a project, it generally has the air of something more reliable publishers have previously rejected.

18 Responses to “Why I Still Boycott Avatar”

  1. Lea Says:

    Olneygate has definitely turned some sinners into saints.
    Companies like Avatar I avoid. I have yet to have a bad feeling about a publisher be wrong, no matter who they published.

  2. Ray Cornwall Says:

    That article is 7 years old. I’m inclined to agree that Avatar isn’t a great publisher, but is there evidence of more recent sins?

  3. Johanna Says:

    Is there evidence that they ever remedied those?

  4. Ray Cornwall Says:

    As much as I’d like to argue that point, I think you win. Check this out:


    He’s begging for artists for Alan Moore and Warren Ellis projects. That can’t be right; Warren writes for the artist he gets, not a randomly-assigned artist. Something stinks.

  5. Johanna Says:

    Ooh, very interesting link. Thanks for pointing that out.

    I take your point about the complaints being old, but I wouldn’t like time to result in “sinners” getting away with things just because readers were forgetful or distracted by the new.

  6. James Schee Says:

    Oddly I’ve never bought anything from Avatar, not from any boycott (though it would seem justifiable) but because I just never saw anything of interest to me from them.

  7. ~chris Says:

    I enjoyed Jenni Gregory’s Dreamwalker, the only Avatar title I ever purchased. But then, they published it only because Jenni’s husband Barry became Avatar’s managing editor. (see http://www.twistandshoutcomics.com/features/columns/rrevs0998.html and search for Dreamwalker)

  8. Rich Johnston Says:

    Now that’s a link from the past, Chris.

    The Boys has the kind of material that Avatar would happily publish without content issues.

    “A Small Killing” from Avatar should be reason enough. Aside from that, Dicks, 303, Wormwood, Strange Kiss, Black Gas, Apparat, Unfunnies, Hypothetical Lizard, Yuggoth Chronicles, Mortal Souls and Robocop, are all well worth checking out. Alan Moore’s Magical Words is an essential comics how-to text. And some sad fools even like Holed Up: http://www.thexaxis.com/misc/holedup1.htm

  9. Johanna Says:

    I would expect someone published by the company to defend them; obviously, you don’t have ethical qualms with them. But you didn’t address the key point — Avatar shouldn’t get a pass for doing the same things Olney did just because more time has passed.

  10. Alan Coil Says:

    In the past, I had heard there was a “thing” involving Avatar. It’s nice to have a link.

    It’s a new world. Businesses will have to understand that they are under constant scrutiny via the internet. They will also have to understand that once on the web, info is always going to be available. Perhaps the internet will force companies to act ethically.

  11. Rich Johnston Says:

    Well, Johanna, you worked for DC, so obviously you can’t attack them either. Except you can and you do, and I do Avatar as well. Don’t try and pull that kind of nonsense. Remember, I repeatedly reported the Pat Quinn situation. The link a few posts up is to *my* column.

    Johanna, you haven’t boycotted Marvel or DC despite some serious publisher/creator issues regarding theft and deceit there over the years.

    All I can do is look at the pattern. Avatar/Pat Quinn does not seem representative of the company’s publisher/creator actions. I can’t find another instance. It’s also quite possible that more occurred than has been made public.

    I see a big difference between that and TightLip, Dreamwave or the like where this kind of action was reflective of the company’s behaviour as a whole.

  12. Lyle Says:

    ~chris, I picked up Dreamwalker as well, along with another title — a horror miniseries with painted art. At the time, Avatar (or, at least, Barry Gregory) was saying that the publisher was trying to be more than a publisher of titilating comics (to put it kindly). Since I was already familiar with Dreamwalker, I tried to give the effort some financial encouragement.

  13. Johanna Says:

    Rich, people are more likely to say that I “attack” DC *because* I worked for them. :)

    You know that there are significant legal, professional, and ethical differences between an employee relationship for a set period of time and a freelancer/publisher relationship, so you know that that’s not a valid comparison.

    You say you can’t find another instance, but the article I linked to lists two more instances of artwork theft alone plus the situation with the Gregorys. Nor do you address the stupidity of Christensen threatening to sue various Usenetters (aka “Ted Rall-like behavior”).

  14. Rich Johnston Says:

    Yes Johanna, but do you attack DC?

    And of course it’s a valid comparison. Far more valid than your “well you would say that” critique.

    Point on the other complaints, threats or legal action are rarely wise, and I hadn’t read the other complaints (not for almost ten years anyway). And that’s the thing, I’m not getting reports about poor behaviour towards creators at Avatar. Over the last few years I’ve received complaints and written stories over incidents concerning CrossGen, Speakeasy, Marvel, DC, Dreamwave, TokyoPop and more. But not Avatar.

    Have you boycotted of the above as well?

  15. Johanna Says:

    You have to ask, Rich, whether I attack DC? And your argument of exaggeration seems to want me to quit reading comics altogether!

    Maybe you’re not getting Avatar complaints because of your opinions — we tend to see what we look for. You still haven’t addressed the original cases, the same behavior that caused a furor when Olney did it.

  16. Rich Johnston Says:

    You started this saying why you still boycotted Avatar. I was pointing out that, yes, by that argument, you need to boycott almost all comic companies. Most, at some point, seem to have behaved shittily to a number of creators, or at least have been accused of doing so. Yet you haven’t decided to boycott them at all.

    I’ve received complaints from all sorts of people concerning all sorts of companies – ones I’ve worked with, ones I haven’t.

    The difference to me seems to be patterns of behaviour. Avatar seem to have had a clear sheet over the last few years, and work well with certain creators famed for having a problems with other publishers. Have you taken that into account?

  17. Johanna Says:

    I still boycott Avatar because they never resolved their unethical behavior, and given the passage of time, people obviously needed to be reminded of that. That they don’t do bad things any more (so you say) doesn’t affect that they did bad things and are apparently relying on people’s faulty memories to have that forgotten.

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