After weeks of controversy and online arguments, Antarctic Press announced it is cancelling its partnership with the upcoming comic, Jawbreakers: Lost Souls by Richard Meyer. Meyer and his podcast, “Diversity & Comics,” are currently at the center of the “#ComicsGate” and “#MoveTheNeedle” debates on Twitter.
The #ComicsGate controversy began after a trolling campaign against female creators with Marvel Comics. Marvel Comics is often the target of detractors who claim the company let its story quality drop in favor of pushing a political agenda, in addition trolls who lash out against any positive representation of a woman or a minority.
In mid-2017, a group of female writers released a group picture of themselves having milkshakes. They were quickly attacked both by those who felt Marvel’s quality had suffered and by misogynist trolls who target women on social media. This led to a back-and-forth battle between the creators’ supporters (using the #MakeMineMilkshake hashtag) and Marvel’s detractors, with the addition of non-fans who joined the debate on one side or the other because of the political tones of the argument.
The back and forth arguments came to be known as #ComicsGate, in reference to #GamerGate, and Richard Meyer became a central figure among those who felt liberal politics was destroying comics.
The name “Diversity & Comics” might confuse, but Meyer’s vlogs tend to oppose what his fans call “Inclusiveness for the sake of inclusiveness.” In these blogs, Meyer derides comics not only for poor quality in writing, but he also seems to deride comics and writers for their attempts at inclusion in general. During one recent review of a G.I. Joe comic, Meyer took issue with the weight of two female characters and noted that half of the team represented in the comic was female. However in another podcast, accusing SJWs of ruining Barbara Gordon, he said Gordon was a strong woman and icon for the handicapped before the character’s reboot. Meyer accused political writers of making the character bland and uninteresting because of their focus on “virtue signaling.”
Meyer’s podcast holds a lot of influence with disgruntled comic fans and trolls. Many of these fans have harassed writers named in his podcast and defenders of these writers accuse Meyer of deliberately inciting harassment campaigns: allegations that Meyer denies.
Meyer, normally more of a commentator than a creator, is working on a graphic novel of his own called “Jawbreakers: Lost Souls” which had been picked up by Antarctic Press. Because of Meyer’s controversial history and the troll harassment attributed to him, some comic book stores vowed not to stock Jawbreakers. In retaliation, fans of Meyer published a list of those comic book stores and called for a boycott.
Bloggers and mainstream media publications accused Meyer of initiating a harassment campaign against these comic book stores, an allegation he also denies. Mayer stated more than once he is opposed to boycotts in general because he considers them “stupid and fake.”
Meyer, and his supporters, also accuse these stores of making “back room deals” in which owners got together and agreed not to carry his product, some even going so far as to cancel preorders.
But as pressure mounted, Antarctic Press made an announcement on May 11 that it would no longer release Jawbreakers: Lost Souls. In a later statement on May 12, the company confirmed that Mark Waid, a highly regarded comic book writer currently working with Marvel, made a phone call to the owners. Antarctic Press did not publish what Waid said, but asserted it never felt pressured or bullied by either Waid or Marvel into cancelling the comic.
Meyer refuted this claim in his video announcing the cancellation of Jawbreakers to his followers. In this video, Meyer said the owner of Antarctic Press called him and seemed apologetic and heartbroken over his decision. Meyers said the owner of Antarctic Press had no choice but to cancel the comic in order to protect the jobs of his employees because of Waid’s influence with the comic book community. Meyer said Waid spent all day on the phone on May 11 making phone calls both to Antarctic Press and to Waid’s own allies.
Discussion of the cancellation of his book starts at 4:00 in the video below.
Meyer stressed that Antarctic Press had no choice but to cancel Jawbreakers and he specifically asked his fans not to troll the company. Even so, Antarctic Press’s Facebook page has recently been flooded with one-star reviews condemning the company for the cancellation.
Waid seems to have closed his social media accounts.
Fallout continues. Although Gail Simone says she never contacted Antarctic Press, she was still targeted in a harassment campaign by trolls who accused her of censoring Meyer. Some of these trolls hurled misogynistic insults her way.
Meyer, for his part, seems unperturbed by the cancellation of Jawbreakers. Although he railed against the “crybullying” of Waid and other “SJWs,” he expects his book to be a success. He announced the creation of his own company. He said Jawbreakers: Lost Souls has already outsold Waid’s latest book and his IndieGoGo campaign has already raised over $250,000.