In a San Diego Comic-Con weekend with a mountain of news, there’s one smaller story that’s been buzzing around the comics community. On Thursday morning, July 19, the first full day of the convention, DC Comics writer Tom King tweeted that, due to death threats over Batman #50, he’d be attending SDCC with a bodyguard.
From this flowed a certain amount of confusion. First off, to what extent was King being targeted? And while King had every right to take measures to ensure his own safety in an event as chaotic as the biggest convention of the year, was his bodyguard hired by DC Comics or Warner Bros.? If so, why did he receive a bodyguard and not other creators who have received similar threats? While the tweet, and subsequent ones, was lighthearted enough to read like a joke, the situation behind it came off grave.
Polygon caught up with Tom King on Friday morning, and asked him if he would talk about why he brought a bodyguard. The Batman writer seemed to feel more awkward about it than anything else.
“I was assigned a bodyguard by my con agent,” he clarified. To explain why, he went back to the way in which plot elements of Batman #50, the Batman/Catwoman wedding issue, were revealed five days before the issue actually came out. To King, the issue itself is a cohesive whole, intended to present the pain of the twist — that Catwoman leaves Batman at the altar — in what he called a “celebration” of the love between the two characters, and to hint that this wasn’t the end.
“Anyone who read the issue and felt that pain would get a little salve with it, and you’d see that there’s that twist at the end that sort of says this isn’t over. For five days [fans] didn’t get the salve, and they didn’t get the twist. They just got the pain. And so for those five days, understandably people were very upset [...] and I can’t blame them. And it used to be when you’re very upset you yelled in the shower, now when you’re very upset sometimes yell on your phone. And some of those people, you know, they said some things that were, you know, just like, ‘Go kill yourself’ or ‘I’m going to come after you’ or ‘You’re fucked.’”
For his part, King seems well aware of the scope of creator harassment online, particularly against more marginalized creators. “What I got was a mere percentage of with some people get,” he said. His former life as a CIA counterterrorism operative, who served in the Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11, kept the situation in perspective.
“There used to be a bounty on my head from the fucking Taliban — I can deal with a few Twitter followers.”
When Polygon spoke to DC co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio on Thursday morning, shortly after King first tweeted about his bodyguard, they said it was the first they had heard of it.
“I would imagine it comes from Batman #50,” Lee said, saying that King had mentioned getting some death threats when the book came out.
“It does happen, sadly,” Lee continued, “but we always tell creators if you feel any sense feeling imperiled or in danger we’ll do what it takes to make sure that they feel protected.”
After inquiry, a DC Comics representative gave Polygon this statement:
“We’re aware of the comments directed at Tom King on Twitter and are supportive of his decision to engage security to ensure a perfectly safe environment in San Diego.
“We take any and all threats against DC talent and employees seriously. Comments such as these go against everything our company and industry represents.”