A Modest Proposal, Part 2

Potshots & The Mysterious Guest

I didn’t originally intend to spill Monday‘s post further into the week, but I must.

  • Here’s the Nancy A. Collins “modest proposal” I shared on Monday, with links to current articles providing background on the case history, and my own comments and my “modest proposal” that Nancy deserves, if nothing else, an apology or two.
  • Surprise, surprise, no apologies have been forthcoming.

    There’s been no apology to Nancy.

    We weren’t holding our breath.

    In the meantime, Myrant has been hacked, my Facebook account was attacked, and the apologists have been out in force.

    It’s been interesting to see this all play out in less than two days as it has.

    As to DragonCon: I’ve not been to more than two US conventions as a guest since 1999; I honestly have a tough time stomaching the current environment, given the treatment of the Kirby heirs, the Siegel/Shuster heirs, and other creators, and the utter disdain and open contempt reflected in much online discussion of corporate ownership of IP. While I have great and infinite love for comics as an artform and medium, I have nothing but revulsion for the American comics industry, by and large, and its ongoing treatment of creators—particularly those whose creations annually earn billions for those entities and individuals who couldn’t hold a pencil to the likes of Jack Kirby. (FYI, If I could afford the time and expense to attend cons again, I would only be attending independent comics conventions supporting new creators, period. I can’t afford that time or expense, though. I have put my all into my teaching the next generation of cartoonists, as circumstances allow; but that’s neither here nor there.)

    Let me be abundantly clear. If I could wield enough clout to protest all comic conventions as a way of reaching and opening the eyes of the public at large concerning the horrific legal, contractual, and business abuses Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner built their empires upon, and still do, I would do so, in a heartbeat. I’m sorry if that would impact livelihoods; dealing with all this, in my own humble career arc, certainly impacted mine in many negative ways, but I’d do more if I thought for a nanosecond it would sway affairs involving DC & the Siegel & Shuster heirs, Marvel/Disney and the Kirby heirs, etc. But I don’t have that clout, and never will.

    And this—well, this is something else entirely.

    No, I’m not conflating the exploitation of Golden and Silver Age creators, and these kinds of creator rights abuses, with what has been alleged to be sexual predation and abuse of minors, and the behavior of business partners of the individual accused of such ongoing predation; this, to my mind, is far, far worse, in terms of the central crimes and criminal charges, and the ongoing business practices of DragonCon in the wake and immediate contexts of all that.

    To move this controversy into a more appropriate social sphere and context,

  • consider the fact that Penn State justifiably suffered a stiff punishment not only for what Coach Jerry Sandusky did—but, more to the point, for what those in the University failed to do.
  • DragonCon, meet Penn State.

    Now, let’s talk.

    For its own well-being and that of the community at large, I’d say the necessary steps to redress this matter do not involve silencing folks like Nancy (or myself).

    If anything, she should have been listened to long ago.

    Instead, she was attacked, reviled, demonized, and that seems to be business as usual today.

    13 years is a long time.

    Nancy is not the problem.

    Honestly.

    As with the outcry I get any time I raise my own disgust/concerns with how, say, Marvel/Disney treat Jack Kirby and the Kirby heirs, and the bullshit following in which I’m accused of somehow pissing on everyone’s parade when all they want to do is enjoy, say, last year’s Avengers movie without feeling “bad” that rotten ol’ party-pooper me went and pointed out the obvious—how can anyone invest emotionally in Marvel/Disney corporate “heroic fantasies” dramatizing communal triumph over overwhelming odds when Jack Kirby and his heirs have always been and currently are being crushed into the dirt by overwhelming Marvel/Disney law teams over proprietorship of said “heroic fantasies”?—I can’t say that I’m in the least bit “sorry” Nancy pointing out such injustices makes someone “feel badly” about indulging whatever the media product/venue is under scrutiny…

    …or, in this case, such a venue is the focus of a modest proposal from a fellow creator.

    Clearly, we intend to make some folks will question their choices.

    As Nancy reiterated on Facebook yesterday, DragonCon is not some big fat doofy baby that has no say in its business dealings. The fact they have dodged answering questions on this matter for years should make anyone with a sense of right-and-wrong give them the side eye. And if people can boycott Chic-Fil-A or Wal-Mart as consumers, there shouldn’t be any question about boycotting this as a consumer. Then again, my initial boycott was directed at the professional creative people who have lent their good names to this show over the years—many of whom only did so after they were assured [Edward] Kramer was not involved in any way—including making money off of it.”

    Jas M Stacy added, lucidly, to the same FB thread, Nancy is not proposing “…”to punish an organization based on accusations.” This goes much further than “accusations.” It is to hold DragonCon accountable for their own statements. DragonCon has stated over and over Kramer has nothing to do with the Con in order to protect the brand and their bottom line. He not only had something with the Con (directly, as was printed in DragonCon‘s program) as late as 2008, but he is still getting paid. That’s something else they’ve denied. They assured …Talent, Vendors and Attendees otherwise. That is the problem. You either see that his involvement and benefit continued after the multiple accusations, arrests, incarcerations and probations, after stating the opposite and lying about it to save revenue is wrong, or you don’t. Nancy‘s boycott actually has nothing to do with Kramer‘s guilt or innocence. It has to do with DragonCon lying about a potential predator’s involvement to save their wallet.”

    Indeed.

    You know, this isn’t my problem or Nancy A. Collins‘s problem to fix, however much so many folks are eager to make it “our” problem.

    DragonCon, step up to the plate.

    I’ve honestly no desire to impair or damage anyone’s livelihoods, but I’ve no stock in continuing to support, much less “invest in,” emotionally/materially/apathetically, in this kind of corrupt organization.

    I also want to bring attention to cartoonist/SCAD alumnus/CCS alumnus Sean Knickerbocker‘s suggestion: “[Atlanta] friends, is there any way to start a counter-con to raise money for a local organization against sexual abuse? Anybody? Dragon-Con needs to change their ways, or disappear.”

    Now, that’s the stuff.

    Then again, DragonCon has reportedly zealously guarded their turf since their founding; I’ll leave that to others to suss out, document, discuss. That’s what businesses do, you know.

    Finally, for now, the following:

    A lot of folks have commented anonymously in the back-and-forth and banter over this over the years, and many anonymous comments and posts have been zipping about since Monday (including on the Myrant comments thread). Nancy shared this on Facebook yesterday at about 5:40 PM, and I’m posting it here, too, if only to bring it to wider attention and archive the material for future reference:

    This was sent to me by an anonymous supporter of the DragonCon Boycott. I am reprinting a portion of their email below, as well as attaching the screen capture in question.

    “Dear Ms. Collins,

    I’m following the Kramer case from afar and am pleased to see that, thanks partly to your efforts, some headway is being made in finally ending the whole thing. Hopefully it will end with him being incarcerated for good.

    I knew Kramer a long time ago… but distanced myself from him sometime after the second or third Dragon*Con (I haven’t attended since nor would I even if I could). My reasons for doing so were that I caught him in some lies of a very pedestrian nature. However, those lies, while not making sense at the time, made sense when I heard he’d been arrested. That is to say, they were cracks in a well-crafted facade. It’s probably why, in my gut, I knew he was guilty when I first heard about the case in 2000.

    While I am far from the action and wish to remain anonymous for unrelated personal reasons, I thought I would pass something on to you that I hope contributes in some way. You see, in searching for everything I could on the case recently, I came upon a yahoo groups posting that proclaimed that Ed was a guest of honor at Dragon*Con in 2008.

  • [Here is the link shared in the email.]
  • Upon reading that, I checked out the Dragon*Con website from around the time mentioned using the Internet Wayback Machine. I downloaded and saved the entire relevant webpage on the date mentioned in posting. The Dragon*Con page clearly shows Kramer to be a special guest. That’s quite an honor for somebody who has had “nothing to do” with the convention since 2000. I’ve attached a zip file, which contains the archived pages, which they quickly changed.”

    Interesting, to say the least.

  • As Nancy points out, note that he still attended the 2008 convention anyway, even though doing so was in violation of his bond.
  • I’ll leave this to the comments, below, and to Facebook and the internet venues engaged with this controversy—for the time being.

    But again: this isn’t our problem.

    It is DragonCon‘s problem.

    Period.

    Me? I’m still waiting to hear from Nancy about those overdue apologies.
    __________________


    More Swamp Thing freebie sketches and more packages going out daily, still shipping from the January SpiderBaby Store special, and no, I won’t be doing it again anytime soon!

    With the new spring semester at the Center for Cartoon Studies well underway and my freelance workload especially heavy, they’ll be no more test markets or such for a while. Back to work!

    ___________________

    Swamp Thing® and ©DC Comics Inc/DC Entertainment Inc.; sketch art ©2012 Stephen R. Bissette. All other artwork and photographs © respective years by their respective proprietors, posted for educational and archival purposes only.


    Discussion (5) ¬

    1. Nancy A. Collins

      Thank you, Steve. And thank you to everyone who has sent me notes of encouragement in the last couple of days. I’m still not holding my breath, though.

    2. Torsten Adair

      Comic com + penn state… I wonder what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution would say about all this?

    3. patrick ford

      The idea you should feel bad for pointing out the obvious is pathetic. Oh? You should apologize for raining on the parade? What is the furthest thing in the world from an apology? That’s where I stand, and then I turn by back and keep walking further away. Go ahead you big tough super hero fans and wallow in your fictional justice fighters and the corporations which bring them to you.

    4. Matt Kennedy

      http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2013/01/nancy-a-collins-calls-for-dragoncon-boycott-over-ties-to-co-founder/

      That mugshot is terrifying! I wonder who tipped off the Milford police?
      The comment thread in that CBR article is filled with some pretty cold dissonance from conventioneers who really don’t care what their money supports. The other Dragon* Con stockholders really do seem to be in a pickle, though. They’ve clearly lied about his involvement (for any number of reasons), but they don’t appear to have a legal right to annex him from the company. A lot of east coast vendors make more money at that show than all the rest of the year, so I understand their hesitance to boycott, too. These are people with families, too. I can understand walking over bodies (so to speak) to save those who are close to you-even if I don’t condone it.

      I don’t think Kramer will last too long in an Atlanta prison, so it may become a non-issue. He won’t be able to sue for his investment residuals if he’s dead, and if he’s not profiting because he’s not alive, will there really be much of a protest?

      This other matter of sexual assaults being rampant at Dragon* Con is another issue entirely, however, and I think it’s a bigger reason to boycott than Kramer’s ability to profit as an investor.

      Still after testimony like this, it’s crazy that some people think Kramer’s innocent (this is from an Atlanta newspaper):

      The stories about Kramer, the sidelong glances and eye-rolling, the snickering behind his back were there almost from the start. What chum is to sharks, fantasy conventions are to teenagers, especially those who consider themselves misfits. Youngsters fill the gaming halls at Dragon*Con and are underfoot anywhere Magic cards are being traded. But for many that didn’t explain why Kramer had a constant coterie of boys seemingly wherever he went.

      “You’d go up to his suite to get passes or to talk to him and the room would always be filled with pre-pubescent boys,” Johnston recalls.

      Mike Dillson, who served as Dragon*Con’s head of operations and security for nine years and oversaw a volunteer staff of 135, says Kramer “always had a legion of little boys following him around. ‘Ed’s boys’ — that’s what we called them.”

      But while the rumors attained near- ubiquity, most people laughed them off or kept their suspicions to themselves rather than risk angering the master of Dragon*Con.

      Dorman remembers: “Ed never offered any explanation as to why he had all these boys with him and no one was willing to ask him about it.”

      Pat Henry says his former business partner never felt the need to explain himself. Kramer was a dedicated volunteer at the DeKalb children’s shelter, a mentor to numerous troubled boys and a surrogate father to children of single friends — the people who mattered to Kramer knew that about him, Henry says.

      “He’s straightened out a lot of kids who had drug problems,” he explains.

      Still, Henry adds, one should always strive to be above suspicion when dealing with children. Does that mean he was aware of the rumors about Kramer? No, Henry is quick to answer, he never heard a thing.

      Early one morning, Dillson recalls, he called Kramer in his hotel room to come down right away to sort out a snafu in the dealers’ hall. “He came from the shower dripping wet and so was the little boy he had with him.” Later, he says, he refused Kramer’s request to take his young son on a caving trip.

      Christ says he was taken aback in 1995 when he started hearing rumors: “After that, I started hearing it everywhere I went and, for a long time, I defended him because I assumed it was petty gossip.”

      Christ says he finally decided otherwise when he saw Kramer one evening with a young boy in tow at the decidedly adult-themed GothCon 2000 a few months before his arrest.

      “Ed was behaving very inappropriately with the boy, who seemed uncomfortable — kissing the top of his head, stroking his hair, basically canoodling,” Christ says. “I thought, ‘Damn! Doesn’t he know what people are saying about him?’”

      Still, no one had the nerve to follow Castle’s example and make the charge to Kramer’s face.

      “A lot of us had ideas about what was going on, but we didn’t want to confront him,” Dorman admits. “Unfortunately, in the sci-fi/ fantasy world, you see a lot of things that creep you out, so you tend to take it in stride.”

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