As big-scale comic cons threaten to return, alongside the industry social networking opportunities nicknamed "BarCon," there has been some criticism over how such a BarCon system might be challenged when it returns.
Malissa White is a comic book creator, writing on webcomics such as Nightmare, Soundbox, A Wailing Blade, and writes for Comicon, The Valkyries blog, and PanelXPanel. Yesterday, she posted a BarCon account to Twitter from three years ago, reproduced below with permission.
I've been afraid to tell this story for backlash for YEARS. But here we go: Frank Gogol called me a racial slur at 2018 NYCC Barcon. The experience was among many of negative experiences at Barcons. At the time, I was told that he was a "big deal" in comics by our mutual friend. He knew some powerful people. I was legitimately scared to tell this story. But, after talking to a few mutuals, I learned that predatory con practices are a pattern.
So, the tea: I met him through a mutual friend. As soon as he showed up, he was giving me openly disgusted looks, talking over me. I asked my friend what his deal is, told the two women in my party what was happening. No big deal, I was there for my friend. We go to dinner after meeting up. Gogol gets drunk and loud, centering himself so much we all got quiet. He began complimenting my two friends on how hot they are. I'm pretty singled out, but whatever. It makes sense considering all the staring he was doing at me all night.
My friend says that she thinks I'm hot. A fact. Gogol then says, I don't know why people think black women are attractive. Then goes on to make a "joke" about how black people look. I won't give it air. I shoot up from my chair, ready to curse this man out but think better of it. I step outside. Pace the sidewalk enraged. I'm trying to work in this industry. I was invited to the Webtoons that night. I wanted to pitch them, but what if this "big deal" messed it up? This industry is predominantly white men. And comics is a six degrees industry. But the audacity on Gogol to be openly racist and just an entitled prick needs to be checked. My friend comes out and reminds me that he's a big deal, that my career would be over. I listened to her and left.
Earlier the next day, I learned firsthand that he cheated on his gorgeous fiancé with a friend. I heard it again that evening when hanging out with other comics friends. I said nothing, I could only assume they heard it from him. Then, in walks his friend from last night. His friend apologizes to me for Gogol's behavior. When he gets drunk, he gets racist. I told him that's not an excuse. His friend is a racist misogynist that thinks women are only here for his entertainment and brags about it, publicly. Defending it is enabling that bullshit. I didn't hear from Gogol until a year later. I stopped assisting at cons and focused on my comics work. He asked me to have him on my show Comics Creators Club to promote his work I told other friends. Apparently, this is his behavior at cons.
I'm sure I'm gonna get some flack. The fact is I've had too many experiences of repugnant behavior by men preying on women in this industry. At all levels. I'm still here, working and supporting. Who knows how many of us left the industry because of men like Frank Gogol.
Comic book creator Gail Simone wrote in response, "This story is INFURIATING," and others followed. Joey Esposito added, "I'm very sorry you had to deal with this, thanks for telling your story. the industry and future creators will be better for it." Jeff Marriott wrote, "I'm not a big deal in comics now–though when I was, I was a bigger deal than Frank Gogol–and I've never heard of him. I don't think he can damage your career, nor should he try to do so. His racism is his problem; it shouldn't be yours. Thanks for the warning, and keep writing!" Kal Huset added, "I cannot imagine what it must be like to face disgusting behavior like that. I'm terribly sorry. but just know that your future is going to be a lot brighter!" amongst many voices.
Frank Gogol is the writer of indie hit comics such as No Heroine and Dead End Kids from Source Point Press, who published his anthology Grief with a number of artists, which he crowdfunded back in 2017. Recently joined the Power Rangers comic book writing team for Boom Studios. Last night, he tweeted out his own statement,
First and foremost, I want to say that when women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ folks, and other marginalized people speak up, it is vital that we listen to and believe them. I'm grateful to see such a strong showing of support for someone who is coming forward with their story. In this case, unfortunately — as the allegations being presented are against me — I must respond. On October 7th, 2017, during NYCC, I was part of a small group of people who went to two bars together that evening. I can confirm that the person who is presenting the allegations against me was part of our group.
I had not met that person before and, to my knowledge, do not believe I've crossed paths with her since. During the night in question, I do not recall engaging directly with that person more than to say "hello" when we were introduced by a mutual friend. Upon reading the allegations presented this morning, I felt blindsided…but also deeply concerned — concerned that I might have unknowingly acted inappropriately and had deeply hurt another person. That would not be okay. I immediately reached out to several other people from our group that night, including the mutual friend who introduced us, to ask if I had been out of line in any way, even if just in the slightest of ways. Of the people I've spoken to, each has assured me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I acted respectfully and appropriately, as was my recollection of the encounter.
To be clear: I categorically deny the accusations that I used a racial slur (or any other slur) against any other person or that I treated any woman around me, ever, misogynistically. Further, I'm unclear as to who might have suggested that I was a "big name" in comics. At the time of the events in question, I had not yet published my first book in print nor had I worked with any publishers. I do not, even now, believe myself to be well-connected in comics, and if I do possess any influence in this industry — which, again, I do not believe to be the case — I certainly have never used it against another individual and never would.
But here's the thing: even though our accounts of that evening differ in the extreme, it's unquestionable that the person presenting the allegations walked away from that encounter deeply hurt — and for that, I am sorry. There's already so much pain in the world, especially in comics. And the thought that I might have contributed to someone else's pain — even if unintentionally — makes me feel ashamed. I'll be honest, my first instinct was to reach out to my accuser, to get a dialogue started so I could understand her experience. But upon reflection, I thought it best to respect her boundaries. When and/or if my accuser would like to open a dialogue between us — so that I might hear about her experience and better understand where she is coming from — I sincerely encourage her to do so.
I have given our mutual friends the OK to share my phone number and email address with her. My DMs are open, too, if that's more convenient.
Malissa has not yet chosen to reply to Frank Gogol's statement. Response to Gogol's statements online is limited but currently negative. But there may be others as BarCon approaches and comic conventions start up again.