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DC Comics responds to outcry about sexual harassment, after dismissing female editor

After three weeks of silence, DC Comics comments on swelling online discussion

Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Following weeks of social media chatter and stories by comic book journalists, DC Comics has released a formal statement in response to an ongoing discussion about a top DC editor who has retained his position and influence despite a known history of sexual harassment.

Though it doesn't name him, the statement concerns Eddie Berganza, a DC editor with an internally known history of misconduct towards female employees, and an incident involving unwanted physical advances and contact with a female comics industry professional during the 2012 WonderCon convention. DC acknowledged and even punished his conduct at the time. But he has since hung on to his position, and that, according to several comics creators and industry journalists, has required accommodations that have effectively quarantined the Superman office.

Superman 1 new 52

Though no further sexual harassment complaints have been filed against Berganza since, multiple journalists and creators have been told by anonymous sources that it is informal policy that no full-time, salaried female editors or creatives be assigned to work with Berganza. His office also — adding insult to injury, one might say — handles DC's print Wonder Woman titles. (The critically lauded Legend of Wonder Woman digital-first series is produced by DC's digital-first office.)

All of these details have been one of the comics industry's numerous open secrets: A high-ranking editor of DC Comics has a history of sexual harassment, and his presence as head of the Superman office directly impedes female creators from contributing to two of the most beloved modern American myths in their most quintessential medium.

In 2012, Berganza already had a number of sexual harassment complaints against him, dating back to at least 2010 if not further. But unlike many of the comics world's numerous stories of sexual harassment or coercion perpetrated by men in positions of power on female creatives, employees or potential employees, his actions during WonderCon, which were committed in a public space with witnesses, saw not only acknowledgment from his employer, but initial repercussions.

Two weeks after the assault, Berganza was demoted from executive editor to group editor, and ordered to complete behavioral training for sexual harassment according the standards of Warner Bros.' human resources department. For his conduct, he also had sanctions placed on his professional behavior, including being banned from attending cons or expos. However, the sanctions and demotion failed to stick, and today he remains the head editor of the Superman office (with Wonder Woman's solo title under its umbrella).

Y: The Last Man

What forced DC Comics to respond on this past Friday was another controversial employment decision, unrelated to Berganza. In its restructuring of its struggling but venerable Vertigo imprint in late April of this year, DC Comics terminated the employment of longtime Vertigo editor Shelly Bond. The Vertigo imprint has managed or seen the original publication of books like The SandmanAnimal ManDoom Patrol, Fables, Hellblazer, Preacher and Y: The Last Man, and Bond had been an editor under it since one month after it was formed in 1993.

Her dismissal — particularly given the underrepresentation of women in the major editorial positions of American comics — was noticed, and immediately contrasted with the continued employment of Berganza, whose presence prevents talented creators from working on DC's flagship books.

That connection seems to be what changed the tenor and spread of the discussion of Berganza's continued employment. Comics outlets were no longer talking about an unnamed senior employee, or the less vague but still obfuscating "head of the Superman office." Berganza's history of professional misconduct and sexual harassment was recollected, and the renewed discussion prompted at least one comics artist to come forward with her own story of another senior employee at DC Entertainment (an art director) attempting to coerce sex from her under the guise of professional networking. Warner Bros.' human resources department has since reportedly gotten in touch with her.

After three weeks of silence, DC Comics' first comment on the discussion was released at 4:45 p.m. PT this past Friday, almost 8 p.m. ET. The historically East Coast-based company moved to Burbank, California, last year. Comic Book Resources ran DC's statement in its entirety:

DC Entertainment strives to foster a culture of inclusion, fairness and respect. While we cannot comment on specific personnel matters, DC takes allegations of discrimination and harassment very seriously, promptly investigates reports of misconduct and disciplines those who violate our standards and policies.

As part of our ongoing effort to provide an equitable working environment, we are reviewing our policies, expanding employee training on the topic and working with internal and external resources to ensure that these policies and procedures are respected and reinforced across the company.

The three sentences would seem to address personnel complaints, but fail to speak to an equally, if not more important matter: the widely reported implication that DC Comics informally discriminates against female employees in hiring for the majority of its Superman and Wonder Woman comics.

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