Last May, Bleeding Cool reported on Dynamite Entertainment's decision to publish an Ethan Van Sciver variant cover of Vampirella to be sold, exclusively to Ethan Van Sciver, with a little history. That it was common for retailers to commission star comics creators to draw a cover for an upcoming comic book, that would be exclusive to their store. Each store would have to order thousands of copies to make it worthwhile for the publisher. Some enterprising artists realised they could commission themselves to draw exclusive covers of such comics, get the publishers to print them, and then sell them online, or at shows, signed or unsigned, for a considerable markup. J Scott Campbell, Rob Liefeld, John Tyler Christopher are amongst those creators who have done so the most, and soon the habit spread.
Dynamite Entertainment asks for fewer minimum copies to be printed than Marvel and DC, so has been popular. Dan Panosian did such for Red Sonja #1 as did Paolo Pantalena, as have other artists for different titles. And in May 2019 that included Ethan Van Sciver. Prominent Comicsgate figure, longtime friend of Dynamite publisher Nick Barrucci. His previous summer's successful Indiegogo campaign for Cyberfrog: Blood Honey was late and had yet to be published. Having a variant cover of Vampirella with Cyberfrog gave him something to sell to his virtue-signalling audience in the interim. At one point, Vampirella and Cyberfrog were both published by Harris Publications, and Ethan had done artwork for Vampirella trading cards and inked the Vampirella/Shadowhawk crossover back in the day, so this wouldn't be the first time he's been involved with the character.
Since then, Barrucci has sold a number of such covers to prominent Comicsgate creators alongside other creators such as Amanda Conner and Frank Cho. But it was Dynamite's decision to promote the covers by running crowdfunders for them on IndieGoGo, alongside similar campaigns for other creators that caused significant disquiet from Dynamite's own comic book creators. Some of whom found their books being promoted by Dynamite alongside these covers. It was specifically the promotion of one of those covers, by leading Comicsgate figures Cecil and Donal DeLay that seemed to tip the balance, with the official Dynamite account tweeting out an appeal to their 'next cash grab!' with a link to a Dynamite IndieGoGo crowdfunding appeal to fund the cover.
Dynamite had also emailed out promotions to Dynamite customers promoting those creators livestreams regarding these covers, accounts on which Comicsgate creators often promote their messages and criticisms. In addition to sales and promotion, there is also an intrinsic value to having characters and creators associated with Dynamite aligned with Comicsgate creators and characters, considered by some as a kind of laundering of intellectual property.
Some creators had already taken steps ahead of the new controversy. Matt Miner, writer on Dynamite's GWAR comic books tweeted
"A couple people asked my thoughts on Dynamite since they're doing CG projects – bc I have the GWAR book with them. My answer: We did GWAR long before the CG/Dynamite alliance – and before COVID there were talks of doing another series. I pulled that – we will find another home. I want to add that I know some of the folks at Dynamite and there are good people there. I know this was a business decision and not intended to be malicious, but for me, a queer dude making comics and just trying to get by and do less harm, I just can't go there."
Bettie Page writer Karla Pacheco
When I told them I was quitting, AC [Amanda Conner] was mentioned as "but she's working with us, it's not all [gators]" Anyway. I'm making sure my team gets paid, editor and I are both donating our paychecks, and then I'm free."
Writer Mark Russell, known for Flintstones, Snagglepuss, Second Coming and his Dynamite runs on Red Sonja and Killing Red Sonja tweeted about his dilemma.
"As someone who has several planned projects with Dynamite, this has been very much on my mind lately. I have seen firsthand how Comicsgate harasses creators, particularly LGBTQ and women creators and am unequivocally opposed to all they stand for. I'm not sure abandoning a mainstream publisher to Comicsgate is the smart move, but there does come a point where a bar serves enough Nazis that it becomes a Nazi bar. Rest assured, I will not be silent. And while I don't know what I'm going to do yet, I will respond."
Last night he made that more definite.
As I write this, I am finishing work on Red Sonja #24, which concludes my contractual obligations to @DynamiteComics. After which, I will no longer be accepting any further work from Dynamite for as long as they continue any affiliation whatsoever with Comicsgate. I don't make this decision lightly. Not only because I was looking forward to other Dynamite projects, but because when a creep walks into a bar, I think they should be the ones to leave. But the reality is they're not being asked to leave, which necessitates this decision. I don't know if this is the right move, or even a very smart one, but it's what my conscience requires. Comicsgate is a hate group with a long history of harassment, particularly of women and LGBTQ creators. Don't try to convince me that they're not. I've seen it for myself. But if they won't leave the bar, then I have to. I refuse to provide them mainstream cover by working alongside them. Again, this was not an easy decision. I loved working with Dynamite. And I know this puts my collaborators in a difficult position. I've had several conversations with them over the last few days and I'm proud to report that they all support or at least understand this decision.
While John Layman, asked to comment, said,
"my opinion on Comicsgate is clear and quite public. But any conversation I've had with a publisher I'm working with -and rest assured a conversation HAS been had- is something I do privately. A public shaming is splashier, but a grown-up talk is ultimately more fruitful."
Writer/artist Rahsan Ekedal tweeted;
So I reached out to my editor at Dynamite about this CG situation and said that I can't be associated with a company that allies itself with a hate group. I just want my followers and other creators to understand that i condemn CG and am furious with the company. I was two issues in on a James Bond miniseries with them but it has been on indefinite hold since March and I haven't done any further work on it since I finished colors during the lockdown.
Artist Christian Ward added
Disappointing to see who Dynamtie have gotten in bed with. A shame as I've enjoyed doing Red Sonja covers but I won't work for a company who aligns themselves with c****g@te
Former Dynamite writer Tony Lee also stated
I've enjoyed the work I've done with Dynamite in the past, especially my Battlestar Galactica books and I've always classed Nicky as a friend. However, due to what looks to be an alliance with CG, I won't be working with them anymore. I hope that they come to their senses.
Comic book retailer Ryan Higgins also posted "I will no longer be stocking Dynamite Comics titles at the store. While this is just a custom cover, there is no reason for any company to work with these people. This is a slap in the face to the great creators that work with Dynamite who are the targets of Comicsgate." Which was enough for Higgins to be targeted and for his store to receive negative feedback, including telling Yelp that it had closed. As Higgins responded, "But sure, they're all about "saving" the comic industry."
The justification I hear from sources at Dynamite is that these creator-exclusive covers from a variety of creators, have helped Dynamite meet a number of bills as a result of the coronavirus shutdown, including salary, rent and keeping the lights on. But there is also the claim made that if this opportunity is made available to some creators, they are legally not allowed to refuse them to other creators who ask. I am not a lawyer and I do not play one on the internet, but what research I have conducted into US law indicates that is not true. There are protected classes who cannot be refused service by a business because of the colour of their skin, sexuality, gender or religion, but whether or not you have spent the last two years tweeting at Gail Simone about her weight, is not one of them.
However, there has also been pushback from Comicsgate fans against Dynamite regarding their decision to join other publishers in donating to Humble Bundle appeals for Black Lives Matters charities, including funding bail bonds of protestors arrested. It was too much for some Comicsgaters to back any more Dynamite crowdfunders.
So you are saying Dynamite didn't send a email for Humble Bundle that all proceeds bail out Antifa, BLM and is supported by Gail in email?
Im sry Dynamite is donating to the Bail Project. Its already documented that the Bail Project has been bailing ANITIFA and BLM rioters our of jail. I will not let my money go to them. I can no longer back anything CG that deals with Dynamite.
When Dynamite has a fund to bail out Antifa rioters it's not bull sh-t read the story from the chicago Tribune and BLM is a communist movement they said it, So why make us back them. ALL I want is to back Cyberfrog I dont care about Dynamite. Long live #CG stop the Grift
I understand plenty of conversations between publisher, employees and creators are taking place right about now. Bleeding Cool spoke with Dynamite owner Nick Barrucci yesterday, but he declined to provide comment.
UPDATE: Half an hour after this piece published that changed. Barrucci told Bleeding Cool. "In speaking with Cecil, neither one of us realized the cover would be so polarizing. We discussed and are not moving forward with the cover or the campaign."