Menton J. Matthews III, also known as Menton3, Avis and Saltillo, is a musician, illustrator, and comic book creator and publisher. He began his musical career in the band Sunday Munich and created comics to accompany his albums Monocyte and The Lapis Coil, both published by IDW Publishing.
Menton continued to work in and around comics, most notably creating covers and illustrations for IDW's X-Files and Millenium comics as well as drawing pages for Zombies Vs Robots. He also self -published a graphic novel Ars Memoria.
He then got involved with the publisher FLOOD44 which moved to Kickstarter as a means to publish his and the work of others, notably Ben Templesmith, but also Dave McKean, Ashley Wood, Bill Sienkiewicz, Riley Rossmo, Geof Darrow and many more. Their Kickstarters have been plagued with non-delivery. This may not be unusual in the world of crowdfunding, but it seems that what was going on was far darker.
Recently, artist Faith Betinis posted a #MeToo Facebook post, part of the sexual harassment and abuse awareness hashtag that shows what a widespread problem it is, about an unnamed artist who harassed her.
Yesterday, fellow comic artist Keith Carmack alluded to the post and stated it was about Menton3. And that on top of allegations of theft against Menton, this was too much for him, and he felt he had to speak.
Carmack spoke at length about what he sees as a pattern of Menton deceptively engaging creative individuals, stealing their work, and mentally manipulating them before moving on to the next victim. He details Menton's using work unpaid, paying a fraction of page rates previously agreed, and not fulfilling paid commissions himself. And, as Carmack says, complaints are met with threatening behaviour. Carmack labels him both a con artist and a monster.
Faith Betinis then confirmed her post was about Menton, repeating Carmack's claims and then adding her own experience. After opening and working for free in his gallery, she says she dealt with Menton's constant talk about his sex life, questions about hers, and then his attempts to put his hands on her before she quit. But she says she didn't want to name him, because many of her friends go to the gallery and are fans of his. And she believed that even by saying this, the tattoo community wouldn't let her work in that field again.
She didn't name the venue, but that is Ars Memoria in Chicago, an art gallery/studio with a tattoo studio. However, as we later discovered, Menton wasn't in charge anymore; his wife is, and he had been barred from attending — and as of last night, he has stepped down in any official capacity.
What is clear by the responses to Carmack's post is that their experiences are not just their own; many people repeated similar tales regarding his behaviour. Ben Templesmith talked about the psychological pressure and damage Menton had done to him. Templesmith says he found himself having to fulfil FLOOD44 commitments to backers to the tune of $40,000, because the money was no longer there, as well as shattering his own reputation amongst fans in the process. But he was just one.
Earlier today, I spoke to Menton and asked him about all these allegations. He told me:
"For me, it is just scary as I am feeling so attacked. I do not wish to attack anyone else back; I will say that. I do not feel that the way I am being portrayed is honest. I will try to do the best I can to answer your questions without attacking anyone."
I asked about Faith's #MeToo post, and that others stated he wasn't allowed to return to the gallery. I noted that others confirmed conversations that back up the kind of things Faith talks about.
"Let me start off by saying I believe that Faith is an incredibly gifted and talented artist. I wanted to work with her because of that and wanted to help open the gallery with those kinds of artists working at the gallery. I can say with absolute certainty I never laid hands on anyone like that in any way, even remotely. No, I have never ever touched anyone or put my hands on anyone at all.
I will say I have an incredibly dark sense of humor and the jokes that were being tossed back-and-forth I felt were of equal proportions on both sides. Knowing that anyone would be uncomfortable working around me is mortifying to me. I have recently resigned my post at the gallery; not out of any sign of guilt, but I care deeply for the people that work there and I do not want to cause more drama for them."
I asked when that happened, and he told me:
"I resigned my post at Ars Memoria last night. After getting a flood of support and also ugly emails, I do not wish for the people working there to have to deal with this drama."
There are amazing Tattoo Artists. Amazing artists that are coming into work with that gallery, as well as the people that work there, don't need this extra stuff on top. Running a gallery in a tattoo shop is hard enough without having to deal with this. There are other things going on in my life privately that I've made it uncomfortable for me to go by the gallery, so I have not been there for a while.
To be honest with you, my relationship of over 20 years to a woman I care about deeply has come to what seems to be an end. We have a child together, no one is an expert in this kind of thing. It is truly one of the worst times of my life right now.
It is truly horrific on many levels. I cannot even begin to describe the absolute despair I'm going through at the moment with the allegations being hurled at me and the other things going on in my private life.
I'm just terrified because it seems as though I'm being attacked for what I would consider nothing, and so right now everything kind of scares me deeply.
I'm absolutely not in the best headspace and definitely self-evaluating on an epic scale."
I moved on to ask about the financial issues and claims, about charges of exploiting and exhorting artists to work for free. I mentioned the loans that were allegedly never repaid and taking on commissions that were never completed, from Keith Cormack and others. He told me:
"To that, I would also like to say that I think Keith is an outstanding human and has a lot to offer this world. As a freelance artist, there are times that things fall through the cracks, and it is extremely upsetting on many levels especially from my standpoint. But in my defense, I would submit that there are far more commissions I have finished and have completed and sent out then the ones that I haven't been able to. Yes, they are commissions I need to get to, and I am actually currently getting to them. I put a great deal of time and effort into that company and cared about it deeply, and when I saw that it was falling down, I did not deal with that particularly well. I have many faults, and there are absolutely times I take on too much work, but I certainly do not see myself as a thief or a con artist. It's more bad time management."
I pointed out that Keith has described it as a deliberate con rather than incompetence, and that it has been echoed by many on that thread including Ben Murphy, Shawn Coss, Jay Ferguson, Horatiu Radoiu, and more, with Ben talking about having to fork out $40,000. I mentioned that if it were one person, I could see it as a "he said, she said" situation. But with so many similar stories, artists, business partners, employees — they must not engaged in some secret cabal to bring him down. They are all just sharing very similar stories that don't sound like just poor business management. To that, he said:
"I'm not a hundred percent sure how to address each one of these issues or bring it up, but what I will say is at the company, I was the chief creative officer — I was not in charge of financial decisions. I do not think at all I was the only one in that company doing things and making decisions. Before my leaving the company, I made it very clear I thought many of the decisions that were being made were inappropriate and wrong. The only thing I can say to what you're saying to me is obviously there are many faults going on and need to be looked at and addressed."
I asked what decisions he saw as inappropriate and wrong. He replied:
"Well there are several situations you're talking about and it is not just one. With 44FLOOD , if you want me to list off the faults that I think I had a particular situation, I think they are many. But I'm not going to stand and say that I do not believe the others involved that also didn't have a lot of issues running the company as well."
It didn't feel like I was getting anywhere here, but when talking about his decision to step down from Ars Memoria last night, he told me:
"As you said earlier, it's hard to look at it as a 'he said, she said' when there [are] so many people upset. I will submit that I'm not a monster. I am not attempting to hurt anyone; a lot of the things being said about me are greatly hurtful and painful. But being a freelance artist and attempting to take care of a family is incredibly difficult. I think at times I have navigated the waters quite well, and there of been times that I have not done very well. Taking on too much work is definitely one of those issues for me."
I asked what he suggested that those who feel they have been hard done by — unpaid, exploited, and conned, even — would do. He replied:
"Well, I think it's relatively obvious I need to be working on those things and getting the people the things they need. There are things that need to go out; I would also submit to you there are many things that have gone out. Again, this is an issue with me taking on too much work. But it is absolutely my plan over the next few months to be completing out all things that need to be finished and worked and sent out.
I have absolutely set my time schedule up for the next few months to be making sure that I'm working on those things. It's kind of a thing that's impossible to explain unless you experience it, but work piles up one thing leads to the next, and personal issues as well as physical issues can play a part.
I can guarantee you there's absolutely no maliciousness on my part, or wanting to upset or con people."
I asked if he'd be willing for Bleeding Cool to act as some kind of clearing house, taking in creators and buyer's complaints, and then over time seeing how they are dealt with. On that front:
"I'm not exactly sure how that would work? Right now I feel like there is a bit of an upset mentality toward me, and I'm a little bit timid. I can assure you my heart is in the right place and I do not wish to screw people over or upset anyone further.
I can say that there is a lot of upset comments being made about me, but I'm also receiving a great deal of support. The people that are upset with me are obviously outspoken, and I hate that I am upset people to the degree that I have.
But I can promise you on my end there is absolutely no malicious feelings or me wanting to screw people over in any regard whatsoever. I would ask you to take a look at the work that I have put out the comic books that I have completed — the things I have done, not just the things I have not. I would submit the things I have sent out and the things I have done are far more in number than the things I've not been able to make it to at times.
What I'm trying to say is the things I have completed for outweigh the things that have unfortunately fallen through the cracks at times. And the things that have unfortunately fallen through the cracks are being resolved."
I asked him what his current plans were. He said:
"I have a show I'm working on for December. After that, my plan is to catch up on all work that needs to be caught up on. Also in a enormous amount of self-reflection and attempting to learn from the things that I've been going on around me, trying to work out how to have things work more smoothly."
I told him how I found it hard to reconcile what he said against what seem to be heartfelt accounts by people I know personally, like Ben Templesmith. And that it may be that he hasn't taken full account of people's experiences of him. He told me:
"I hear you. I like Ben too, and I miss him. I hate all of this. But I truly feel like I am being attacked. I am not a con artist, just a bad time manager at times."
We seemed to be going 'round in circles, so I left it there.
Catherine Matthews, Menton's wife, who runs the Ars Memoria Gallery, prepared a statement for Bleeding Cool. It reads:
I would like to make it very clear that Ars Memoria, its owners, operators, and artists are an entirely separate entity than Menton. I know my staff, patrons, collectors, and artists will all stand firmly behind me as we proceed forward without his participation in any way. I believe in what we are doing there from our charitable work to the brilliant art we are so blessed to be entrusted to exhibit to the custom tattoo artistry that means so much to so many. This shop and gallery is the means of support and an endeavor of passion for a lot of people. I want to ensure that's its reputation remains separate and intact. It's is true that Menton has for some time taken on an impossible volume of work, overextended himself, and has fallen incredibly, significantly behind. I do not believe this was ever an attempt to defraud anyone. I can say that Menton did collaborate successfully with various artists in comics and I do know that was to the benefit of everyone involved back then. This situation at 44FLOOD is very complex and I was not privy to all of it. I'm not defending Menton's behavior, trying to explain his past business dealings that I am obviously unaware of or attempting to assuage anyone's valid concerns but I can only speak to the truth as I know it.
Given that I am going through a divorce accompanied by the fact that I have a young child, you might imagine what a difficult position this puts me in but I do feel as if I publicly need to address the allegation of one of our former employees about sexual misconduct. Menton's sense of humor is crude, vulgar and sometimes pushes people's limits, mine included. However, this was regular and mutual banter between her and him, as I personally witnessed. At NO time were hands put on anyone and there were other witnesses present during the one particular incident described online. Menton and I are NOT on good terms but I will willing stand up and say that he did not assault anyone. As I have stated in other venues of social media via a public post…I was the victim of a serious sexual assault prior to meeting Menton. I do NOT take misogyny, mistreatment, harassment or the subjugation of women lightly. I take it personally. Under NO circumstances would I ever turn a blind eye to a man or a woman engaging in that type of behavior, ever. Ars Memoria will be run under my watchful tutelage. I have always lead with who I am, a strong, competent, and independent woman. Expect that to only become more evident. I can be reached very easily online.
I'm an open book and am more than willing to speak with anyone privately about this or anything else. Please, remember and try to respect that I have a young child I'm raising and shielding. My son and my business are my number one priories now and in all the challenging days to come.
I understand that 44FLOOD is still an ongoing concern for Kasra Ghanbari, Ben Templesmith, and Keith Carmack, and that Menton3 hasn't been associated with the group for a long time now. He left 44FLOOD two years ago, but still 44FLOOD are trying to mop up the damage.
Menton3's new series, X-Files: JFK Disclosure by Denton Tipton and Menton3 began publication a week ago from IDW Entertainment, with the second episode issue planned for the end of the month.