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August 20, 2014

A Few Quick Notes On Yale Stewart, Dick Pics And Various Comics-Culture Permutations Perhaps In Play

So there's a cartoonist named Yale Stewart. A SCAD graduate, Stewart started out post-graduation doing an autobio comic called Gifted. He then shifted over into unlicensed kiddie versions of DC superheroes that he ran as JL8. These were popular. They were nominated for awards and well-reviewed. I'm pretty sure I linked to them. These led to official licensing work and work at Image. One of the permutations of the JL8 stuff was a series of images that Stewart has done as commentary on various national news stories and, at least in one case, solicited money for on behalf of an involved charity. The cartoonist Ulises Farinas objected to the latest of these images -- a Ferguson, Missouri related Green Lantern image -- and spoke out last week, setting off a mini-firestorm of criticism and Internet argumentation, much of it nasty and a lot of it aimed right back at Farinas.

imageIn the course of that argumentation, accusations sifted to the surface that Stewart had sent women in the comics industry dick pics. I'll define dick pics here -- for my Mom, mostly, so she doesn't ask me at lunch in a restaurant -- as photos taken, sometimes with a mirror but mostly without, showing one's penis that are sent to someone, frequently as part of flirtatious dialogue in a sexual or hopefully sexual relationship. Stewart's proclivities re: camera and cock were apparently something in the rumor mills earlier this summer; Stewart addressed the rumors on Twitter in early July, and made a comment about the general practice in May. As far as I can tell, no one directly came forward to say this was done to me, not in public, but others have publicly testified that they were told by recipients that this had happened and stood firmly by these claims. Just about everyone who has sought to find out with any sort of connections in the comics world probably has at least one name. Further, it was claimed during this rolling, virtual reveal that these were unsolicited photos and that they went out to more than one person. You can see one on-line community forum where a photo said to be Stewart was posted to a thread here.

Other items of interest include a piece at Bleeding Cool about the Farinas/Stewart disagreement over the covers and an article at something called Unleash The Fanboy conflating the harassment claims with the criticism of the charity work into one super-issue and going after Farinas like he stole someone's pet. I disagree with the first piece in that I think these are fairly important issues, including and maybe especially the idea of profiting from grief -- and I disagree with the second on just about every substantive point.

Mostly, though, it looked like this had settled into the make jokes about it on Twitter + wondering out loud as to when Rich Johnston will put out another story on it at this now very different stage of things period.

Earlier today, Stewart posted a lengthy response on Facebook and via his Tumblr, saying the photos were his, they were sent to two women with whom he was having separate sexual relationships in 2012, they were still apparently unwanted, he has reached out and apologized to these women, he is apologizing to the public and he is making a $1000 charity donation. The next step, one supposes, would be a public vetting of that information, whether all of these things are true and whether that depiction encompasses everything involved. We'll see. If he's not being truthful here, he deserves everything that will come to him. My guess is that the first target of this attention will be the number of women that have received dick pics from this guy; he just sounds like he could be fudging there. It should also be pretty easy to ascertain if he was in a relationship with the women who got these pictures.

So a few things pop to mind, and they're not all "I need a new job." One is that the sentiment floated that it is ever okay to send people unsolicited naked pictures of yourself (or others) is deeply, horribly wrong. It's embarrassing to even have to type that. That's a big deal. That is not interpretive. That is not generational. That is not a whoopsie moment. That is a deliberative, potentially assaultive action. That is also something that someone else gets to decide for you, the hell with your intentions. Another is that I hope that anyone who experiences something shitty like this will reach out directly to any appropriate institution involved and give them a chance to do the right thing. This includes the institutions involved when/where an incident takes place and any/all institutions continuing to support said person once these things are reported and become part of the public record. Barring that -- and it's perfectly understandable why that last suggestion might be a total non-starter with a lot of folks -- a third thing is that I'm hopeful that someone might work with this site, or Heidi's, or ComicsAlliance, or CBR or any place you think makes sense to let those entities advocate on your behalf and hold institutions responsible. This can be done just as anonymously as it is to tell a few friends and swearing them to secrecy except when they're being mean about it on Twitter. A fourth realization is that Ulises Farinas was treated poorly by people that have a fannish interest in the art that Yale Stewart makes, and that this is another reminder of a deeply dysfuctional aspect of fan culture that ascribes virtue to certain fan interests and I think one against which we must always remain on guard.

One of the reasons that I support specific action should go hand in hand with broader change is because of stories like this one. While there's a possibility you can sort of carve out and wiggle your way to a point where sending one or two people pictures of your dick seems in a specific context an arguable thing to do, or at least one for which you can apologize down the road, maybe we're in an historical moment where we'd all be better off moving in the other freaking direction as far as we can go as opposed to remaining in those places where we have to contextualize and argue and apologize. Someone do an inspirational poster about that.

Mr. Stewart did not respond to an e-mail.
posted 10:00 am PST | Permalink

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