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The "Problem" of How to Think About Problematic Creators

I've talked to many of my friends about my complicated relationship with the work of Warren Ellis. His work is primarily what got me into comics as an adult, and I think a lot of it is still brilliant, and people should read it.

Also, a little more than a year ago, a number of women came forward to recount their stories of sexual coercion and... misrepresentation? I don't want to make light of it, and my point is not to go in depth on what he did. Let's just say that he used his influence in the comics industry to solicit MANY women into sexual relationships, so much so that they created a website somanyofus.com which now has over a hundred people that have logged their histories with him, often times backing up their stories with emails and chat histories.

Warren Ellis is a skeezy womanizer, and probably a pretty bad person. So how to view his works, and more specifically their influence on me? Some of my favorite go-tos for people that wanted something short and amazing to read in the comics space, that weren't superheroes, were Global Frequency and Supergod. Those aren't my initial picks anymore. Now I recommend something else, and if they come back for me, I might bring that up, but we have to have the "caveat discussion" about the creator.

Ellis' problematic views/behavior don't seem to come through in his works, at least not in ways that I pick up. But maybe there's some subtle allegories that I'm not keen enough to pick up on? Do those still affect me even if I don't consciously recognize them? I'm not saying that I'm afraid of being brainwashed by comics, but I am conscious that some of my thinking has been shaped by his writing, and it makes me uncomfortable to think about how problematic that influence might be.



Flash forward to a year and change later: For a good few years now, there has been maybe the most amazing Hulk story ever told, in the pages of "Immortal Hulk", this has been written by Al Ewing, with art by Joe Bennet. Now if you know these names, and are somehow hearing about this just now, leave me a comment because I want to know how you even found this blog, but also, breathe easy about Al Ewing. As far I know, the man's a saint. Joe Bennet, on the other hand, is at least an anti-Semite. 

My first exposure his nature was earlier this year, when someone called out a panel from Immortal Hulk, that takes place inside a jewelry store, and the shot is framed to look out through the store window to the street. The window features a prominent Star of David, and the shop name is revealed to be "Cronemberg Jewery", admittedly the "y" at the end was blocked by a character's head. When confronted about it, Bennet said he was "unaware" of the problematic stereotypical association between jewelers and Jewish people, and that the name of the business was just an accident, because he was doing it backwards he even misspelled "Cronenberg" because it was supposed to be an easter egg nod to the horror director.

Except, this isn't the first time Bennet's done this, he apparently did something similar in X-Men: Gold. it makes you wonder how much other racist hate speech he's snuck in as easter eggs in these books, and nobody caught it. The times he does get caught, he just says "Aww shucks, I'm sorry, I didn't realize/it wasn't intentional" and then apparently just goes right back to hiding things in there so that only people how "know" will find it?

He's particular bullshit came to a head this week, when a political cartoon he'd made in 2017 of Bolsonaro in armor, exterminating rats that were obvious racist caricatures, resurfaced. Al Ewing quickly made a statement this was the final straw for him, and that Immortal Hulk is done, but he won't be working with Bennett ever again. Marvel, always a day later and a dollar short, also came forward and said that they would not give him any work in the future, and that they were cancelling his involvement in books that were already in production.

I'm glad Bennett's gotten at least some of the repercussions he deserves for his shittiness, but it's interesting to me to contrast it against the situation with Ellis. In the case of Ellis' work, I wonder if there's some hidden message in the writing/theme/plot of his work that might be sinking in, but don't REALLY think there is. In the case of Bennett, he was CLEARLY trying to sneak in hidden messages into his books, like some sort of fascist cryptopropaganda. 

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