21 DECEMBER 2015
Happy Winter Solstice! Remember in 2014 when everyone was talking about sexual harassment at Cons and how CCI refused to author a stronger policy despite many other big Cons doing so? And we had that fascinating interview between David Glanzer and Albert Ching of Comic Book Resources, and this article and that article and others?
Like its subject matter, the conversation has never really gone away. It just expanded to be less about SDCC and more about Cons in general. And interestingly, the stories getting the most attention aren't about attendees getting harassed, but about professionals - artists, writers - getting mistreated. Maybe they get groped or some industry legend offers to give them a few pointers up in their hotel room or someone with power over their career won't stop hitting on them. Or an executive senior editor bites and gropes them in the Hilton Bayfront bar.
Which has shifted the conversation more to bad behavior in the comics industry, rather than at Comic Cons. But let's not pretend there isn't a connection. A passing glance at many of these stories reveals that yes, they happened at a major Con. And the line between pro and attendee blurs more and more these days, with so many new and aspiring creatives using Cons as networking opportunities to get a foot in the door - not just in comics, but in film, animation, game design, costume design, publishing, etc.
So what does this all mean for attendees? The Comics Alliance article says, "Sometimes dependent on hearsay and short on specifics, anecdotal warnings are still very much necessary to help newcomers and veterans alike navigate an industry in which personal and professional lines often blur and networking often takes place in hotel bars at the end of convention days."
But your average attendee isn't in a position to get those warnings. And sometimes what seems weird (like when someone invited me to his room to talk about a writing project) is a legit thing being crammed into a busy schedule. Other times you're innocently talking to another attendee at the Hyatt bar and he gropes your chest (me at SDCC 2014) or posing for a picture in your Iron Man cosplay and a woman grabs your crotch (my friend at Alamo City Comic Con a few months ago). Or you're holding an event at your comic shop and a very famous writer offers to get you into any Con you want in exchange for some private time, then badmouths you when you decline (happened to my friend years ago, writer is still a notorious jackass.)
On the professional side, many people are calling for the comics industry to hold predators accountable. Attendees are still calling for stronger anti-harassment policies at some Cons and cosplayers want everyone to know they deserve respectful treatment. I don't think the harassment will ever go away entirely, because where there are humans, there is someone behaving horribly.
However, we can support each other as much as we can - and if you are taking your first steps at networking at Comic Cons and are wondering who to trust, it doesn't hurt to do some background research. Ask around, find out who has a reputation. Use your best judgement about the industry players who seem willing to "help" you. And whatever you do, don't let an incident scare you away from Comic Cons or your chosen field. You belong here and there are people who will support you.