Yesterday morning I rolled over to observe the world happenings via Twitter when this curious Tweet slid through my timeline:


Oh shit. Who did what? What’s the hashtag movement?

Quick. Find someone else who is talking.

 

AT&T

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?

This is what happened.

 

 

 

 


Here’s the back story:

Roc Upchurch was arrested and charge for assault and battery against his wife and children.

Weibe made a powerful statement by temporarily suspending the comic.  Upchurch left the project.

Tess Fowler was brought in to illustrate Rat Queens. This was a match made in heaven. Rat Queens is 90% about women. Fowler is an amazing talent. Her work on the book starting at issue eleven has been highly touted.

But then in April, Fowler announced she was leaving the project. Speculation was rampant, but it wasn’t until yesterday that Fowler revealed the story.

Fowler herself asked fans not to boycott Rat Queens.  She mentions she was work for hire and not an owner of the property.

Image was founded on the principle that artists should own their work. Each week they stack the shelves with an enviable number of comics worthy of their cover price, a rare feat in today’s heavily saturated market. On their FAQ page they have this to say about being creator owned:

“Creator-owned” means exactly that—the trademark and copyright of the work in question is wholly owned by its original creator. The majority of the comics and graphic novels published by Image are creator-owned. While Image as a company does have some say in the promotion and distribution of the titles it publishes, it is done with non-creative interference to protect the company and maintain responsibility for our public image.

There’s no disputing whether or not Unchurch beat his wife. There’s a record.

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He says he’s working to better himself.

It’s finally getting things back on track — things with my kids, things with my ex-wife. I’m getting back into a workflow. I’m picking up the pieces and putting things back together.

She says he isn’t.

I believe we all have a peaceful place that we try hard to reside in and not allow any intruders. That has proven to be very difficult when the intruder happens to be your father or the father of your children…I get no enjoyment in calling him that. He has since Christmas invaded our peaceful place on a number of occasions and it’s never with good intent. It’s always to his benefit and never to theirs.

Fowler says she was lied to by Weibe.

 

Weibe has said…

Tess Fowler was not removed from Rat Queens for Roc Upchurch. We made our best efforts to find a new voice for Rat Queens together, but I was unable to get to that place despite her talent and enthusiasm. Ultimately, our collaboration was work for hire and it wasn’t working out creatively. I do not know what the future holds for Rat Queens. Despite speculation, I have not made any decisions abut its future since the announced hiatus other than needing a break to find its voice again. There are no scripts written, and though I’ve been looking for a new team to work with, there is no artist attached.

The waters are muddy. I’m not here to point fingers or come to a decision about who was wrong or right. Respecting Fowler’s request I don’t want to go to war with Weibe or Image or even Upchurch. I believe as many in this beautiful industry do, that creators of all walks of life should own their work. The art of comics is better when it’s run by creators.

But, what I can’t do is ignore to whom I give my hard earned cash. I can’t ignore promises made. And most of all I can’t ignore the pleas of another Black woman.

Here is a statement released by Wiebe on November 21, 2013 after news about Upchurch broke.

I know many readers are asking the ultimate question: What now? I was on vacation with my family when the news broke and I’ve spent the past few days debating what to do. Rat Queens has always meant a lot to me. I’ve poured my heart into the series, and through it I’ve shared my life, revealed my fears and insecurities and it’s helped me cope with lifelong struggles of body image and confidence. 

I want you to know that Rat Queens means the world to me on a personal level and my mission for the series is unchanged. I want to write stories about women that I see in my everyday life, about friendship and to make comics that include and embrace diversity.

As of today, Roc Upchurch will no longer be illustrating Rat Queens. This is going to be a transitionary period for the series as we rebuild and prepare for a new start. I am committed to Rat Queens, to stand by what it has always been praised for and to prove to the fans that they weren’t wrong in loving it.

“To prove to the fans that they weren’t wrong in loving it.”

I remember when this statement came out. I remember the sigh of relief from fans. A foul mouthed, hard-drinking, girl gang with an RPG style that was well written and beautiful to look at lit a fuse amongst women in comics drew an immediate reaction.

When Wiebe released his statement I felt there was finally a male creator who understood the female fan base. Finally, a publishing company who honored the women working for them and purchasing their product. We’ve seen the big two cover for abusers for years while the women we admire suffer on the sidelines.

Which is why Fowler felt like a perfect replacement. She is known for speaking out against abuse in the industry. Her action sequences are legendary. Though Rat Queens has struggled with deadlines it seemed the book and it’s team was doing well.

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We live in a strange time for creators and fans. The internet has afforded us the ability to speak directly to one another. Social media loving creators re-tweet loving thoughts and critiques from fans. This connectedness gives  the illusion of friendship and understanding. The truth is, fans can’t know what drives a creatives decisions. But, we do get to choose who we listen to.

We, yes, comic book fans, but particularly women, particularly Black women, cannot ignore the well documented statements of another Black woman.

The following are excerpts from Upchurch’s ex. Logs of her blog can be found here. They can be triggering:

I am a survivor of assault and rape at the hands of my husband Roc Upchurch. He is a comic book illustrator who fell off the deep end into alcohol abuse, extra marital affairs, and physical assault…all because his comic book found success.

I’m in shock that I actually called the police this time anyhow. I’m in shock by all the things my husband had said and done to me just minutes before. I’m in PAIN…yes physical pain from him throwing me down two steps and my head hitting the floor, choking me to the point my neck feels as if it will completely snap off, smashing my face in over and over but that pain that physical pain that I feel even as I sit and type that is nothing in comparison to the emotional pain I feel, the mental pain I feel, the pain I feel when I look at my children.

I’m sure many of you have seen this self portrait that he recently drew with the three bleeding hearts and his face blurred out in red. When I first saw it pop up on our T.V. screen I thought oh great what is he up to now and at least he got his face right because that’s exactly how I imagine it when I have the slightest thought of him.

Don’t be fooled by such illustrations. He wouldn’t be able to tell you what his children are going through, doing, feeling, or anything for that matter on any given day. That illustration is how he knows HE left his children and not how they really are.

..

“You got my other project canceled.”

Did he really just say that? Did the man who…you know what I won’t even go over the list of horrible things he’s done. But did he seriously just knock on my door, unannounced and tell me I got his other project canceled?…uh, no comment.

And finally…

P.S. The success of Rat Queens gave him the ability to prey on innocent fan girls at every convention he attended. But I’m sure you’ve got some kind of policy in place to prevent that from happening again, right?

Dear Comics New Sites/Publishers/Creators and most of all Fans: Roc Upchurch is the monster that haunts our nightmares. Mine and my children’s. And now he’s yours too. You let him back in by the front door.

I believe her. Especially when Upchurch makes statement like this one from a August of 2015 interview with Comic Book Resources.

There were a lot of things going on at that time, divorce being the main thing, and also my family dealing with a loss. We lost my grandmother, who was a very important person to us, to my siblings, my children, my ex-wife. Everything was hard around that time, which was weird, because on the career side, things were good. But everything with my family was falling to pieces. We were all being affected. There were a lot of bigger life issues that stemmed from it [that] I personally should have been able to cut off before it escalated. I saw myself, and I was the head of the household, and I feel like I should’ve held things together better. I should’ve been a stronger glue through all of that. Things fell apart. As horrible as it was, it was a symptom.

I’ll let you dissect that bit of work.

As Black women we are the first line of defense for other Black women. When one of us speaks out it’s the community’s responsibility to listen and then to take action. I’m not asking for Upchurch to be banned from comics. I’m not threatening to boycott anyone who works with Upchurch. But if Upchurch did return to Rat Queens I don’t see how I could purchase any more of his work.

 

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Knowing the extent of what women have to endure just to be in this industry, knowing what happens at conventions, knowing dollar is king, how can I support those who are actively against a pillared principle of society?

There’s been a lot of debate over whether an artist is their art or if the final product can be separated from the creator. If you like Manhattan are you condoning Woody Allen? If you stood and cheered at Kobe’s final game are you promoting rape culture?  If you stand by and say nothing are you part of the problem?

These are new waters for all of us. Difficult to manage waters with high stakes. Tess Fowler walked away when she couldn’t stomach any more. I guess that’s a solid measure for everyone. When it’s too much for you to stomach walk away.

 

 

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