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Firings, Quittings and Valnet Fallout at Comic Book Resources

CBR is in trouble , with owners Valnet imposing greater demands on contributors and seemingly firing those who try and stand up for writers.

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, I was momentarily a Big Thing at Comic Book Resources. Headhunted by CBR founder Jonah Weiland from Jason Brice's Silver Bullet Comics where I wrote All The Rage comic book gossip column (now memory holed into non-existence), I wrote the Lying The Gutters column, and it made my name. Bleeding Cool wouldn't exist without it.

Firings, Quittings and Valnet Fallout at Comic Book Resources

And CBR is in trouble again, with owners Valnet imposing greater demands on contributors and seemingly firing those who try and stand up for writers, Popverse reported that recently appointed EIC Adam Swiderski had been fired by Valnet. That was followed by senior news editor Stephen Gerding after 18 years with CBR and senior features editor Christopher Baggett after eight years. And quoted George Edelman, Valnet Inc. content director, that was shared in CBR's internal Slack channel explained that "CBR will be undergoing major structural changes related to turning the corner on both culture and performance… as a result certain roles no longer exist, and we are focusing on individuals who can create a more positive culture going forward."

A more positive culture? Current Marvel Comics Associate Editor Meagan Damore, who was a CBR editor from 2015 until last year tweeted "The only reason I stayed at CBR so long was because of people like @ND_Steve and @jcbaggee, so the idea that they were fired to create "a more positive culture" is a f-cking joke. Valnet got rid of them because they actually stood up for their coworkers and employees. I could not be more furious on their behalf right now — to lay them off with no warning and then to malign them after the fact… Absolutely disgusting. Just toxic."

Bleeding Cool has come across gossip that some of these issues were about an attempt to switch to AI story generation, but I understand that this is false and it is company policy not to accept any such material.

Comics Beat reported "We're told that those removed were actually standing up for writers, with Swiderski, Gerding and Baggett pushing back against more changes along the lines of what Puc reported. Writers were being asked to do more work while shrinking the Pay Per View rates. The situation was described to me by one person as "working writers to the bone. The situation is so dire that in addition to the three editors, I'm told two HR people were laid off, who also objected to the demands that management was making on writers, who, as a reminder, are contractors, not employees. That HR people risked their jobs – and lost them –  to stand up for the rights of contract workers is a situation I've not heard of before, and quite the indictment of Valnet's working conditions."

And yes, Samantha Puc. Gaming Lead at CBR from 2020 to 2021 and former Newsarama and Comics Beat editor tweeted "I haven't spoken publicly about this because I didn't want to burn bridges, but Valnet is a monster. In 2019, I was "promoted" from one editor to position to another at CBR and given an accompanying pay increase, but six months later when upper mgmt talked about raises, anyone who had accepted a "promotion" (including me) wasn't eligible because "we got raises when we took on new positions." As a FT section editor expected to be available 24/7, I made $2k a month. When I asked for more money, I was fired. My "click bonuses" for articles that performed well were also about half of what I should have received. When I asked why, they told me, "bot traffic doesn't count. Their entire system chews people up and spits them out for pennies all under the guise of "building portfolios." When I was there, everyone was a freelance contractor, which the company cited as a "perk" because "everyone could make their own hours." In actuality it allowed Valnet to deny benefits to employees working more than FT hours and to sever contracts whenever they wanted. Anyone who attempted to push back or ask for more was either pushed out or outright let go."

Longstanding Valnet/CBR contributor and Managing Editor since last year John Arvedon, posted "An extremely upsetting day. I'm still trying to process everything myself, but I will run CBR as best I can, because I've always cared deeply for this site, its readers, writers and editors. I deeply care for Chris, Adam and Stephen. Stephen, in particular, was my mentor at CBR. What happened today was beyond my control, but if you need talented individuals for your organization, I can't recommend them enough."

Bleeding Cool remains fully owned by Avatar Press, something I am very grateful for right now.  My sympathies to all those affected and if there is anything I can do to help, please, feel free to reach out.

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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