Eddie Berganza: Does a Creator’s Personal Conduct Impact Your Decision to Consume His/Her Work?

There is debate about whether or not a creator’s private life should have anything to do with whether or not consumers choose to buy his or her products has been going on a while. I know where I stand, but in light of recent announcements, I’ve been thinking about that a lot in the past couple of days. Where do you stand?

I tend to avoid the work of creators whose life choices I strongly object to. Simple disagreement isn’t enough: I don’t use drugs of any kind (except for the caffeine in chocolate), but I’ll still enjoy the works of Kevin Smith, Grant Morrison, and others. There are, however, some things that I just cannot stand. I will not, under any circumstances, do anything that puts another dime in Roman Polanski‘s pocket, for example. In the past few days, DC Comics has announced that they are streamlining their operations, and have released many of their Vertigo editorial staff. This has caused a fervor in the community, as Vertigo editor Shelly Bond is among the suddenly unemployed, despite positively glowing reviews about both her work and her ability to function in society as a human being. In contrast, former Executive Editor Eddie Berganza, demoted to Superman Group Editor in 2012 because of his habitual sexual harassment, is still employed.

Let me repeat: the man who oversees the entire Superman line at DC Comics is well known for sexual harassment, to the point where DC will not hire women to work alongside him, other women have turned down jobs at DC because they refuse to be in the same building as him, and male creators have taken jobs at DC on the condition that they will not have to work with him in any capacity because they are so disgusted by his conduct.

DC Comics is owned by Warner Bros, a company that produced and distributed several Roman Polanski movies after his conviction. (See above.) They answer to share holders, so it seems their thought process is clear: if a creator’s work is profitable, that creator can receive continued employment despite his or her conduct. So, I’m going to send DC and Warner Bros. a message the only way I can. From today forward, I will not buy any comic which Eddie Berganza contributes to. I have said for years that I couldn’t imagine the circumstances that would get me to drop Daredevil or Green Lantern, but now I can. If Berganza touches those titles, I’m out. If enough of us do this, Berganza’s works will no longer be profitable. Unfortunately, his collaborators and colleagues will suffer, but maybe that will just increase pressure on DC and Warner Bros. from that end.

I’ve heard that the comic industry is even more difficult to break into than the NBA, simply because aspiring creators grossly outnumber available jobs (proportionately speaking.) If that’s the case, there should be no problems leaving Berganza behind (I can’t bring myself to show him enough respect to put “Mr.” in front of his name) and promoting deserving people up the latter far enough to open an entry level position for someone who deserves it. In an industry this competitive, let’s save the spaces for capable creators who are also great human beings. Given the option, why wouldn’t we?

4 replies on “Eddie Berganza: Does a Creator’s Personal Conduct Impact Your Decision to Consume His/Her Work?”

  1. JD DeLuzio says:

    Good questions. I have been on many panels at Cons where variations of this question come up. I don’t have an easy answer.

    Certainly, I read many people whose views I don’t share, even people whose views I find offensive. If their gone, I’m even more likely to read them, but I will of course do so with the appropriate critical eye. I can watch the better old Westerns, too (John Ford’s work, for example) but would never defend their depiction of Native people. And I would extend this to the work of people from the past whose personal behavior was deplorable. A lot of great artists were a–holes.They may have created something lasting. Personal behavior among living artists? That can be more problematic.

    Take Polanski. Tough one. I actually have avoided his work since the 1970s, even though several of his films from before then are ones I enjoy. I own his Macbeth. A problematic ethical stance, but there you go. I’ll likely watch some of his movies once he’s gone, assuming I’m still here.

    I think in the Berganza case, we have a person actively working for a corporation who should be investigated, and it seems to be part of a larger corporate culture that has driven me away from reading DC anyway (I haven’t really read DC comics since the New 52), and has made the industry less diverse. So I guess I will say that I’m not buying DC anytime soon, anyway but, if I was, I’d probably take your stance. He’s still actively a problem. But would I read him down the road, if he did something really impressive, and he was no longer active in comics? Possibly.

    For now, Warner and DC need to get a clue about how to run their company, and which people to promote. And maybe this kind of pressure, if widespread enough, will help.

    Man, I knew it was going south when they eliminated the Stephanie Brown Batgirl.Spoiler: it’s not the same.

  2. Fez says:

    I’ve debated myself about this before. I depends on the severity of the views and the quality of the work, I suppose. The biggest one I can think of, in my personal experience, is Orson Scott Card. I own the whole Ender and Shadow series of books, saw the movie, etc, but his personal views are fairly awful. Granted, I didn’t know about them until I was already well into the series, but despite disagreeing with him, I’ve still managed to enjoy the work, at least the ones I’ve already had. I have sort of drawn a line there, where I won’t try any of his other works unrelated to Ender, though.

  3. zocalo says:

    A little, or maybe a bit more than that, certainly, but I also respect the right to free speech so can deal with “X produces good content” and “X has opinions I do not agree with” as two seperate things. The problem is that consuming the content legally involves money passing from me to the person I disagree with, and depending on the issue that just feels morally wrong. Mostly, I don’t really care, but if someone’s views impinge on people’s beliefs, right to self-expression, to be who they feel they are and do what they want with another consenting adult in the confines of their own home, and similar issues, then that’s when I start getting touchy.

    Like Fez, Orson Scott Card is probably the biggest example for me; I’d not actually got around to reading any of his stuff (although it was on my list) and had no idea about his views until it all kicked off when the “Enders Game” movie came out. I found his personal views to be practically neolithic, which is obviously about the right era for many of the more “fundamental” tenets drawn from religious works, and out of kilter with a more typical modern first world progressive social outlook. On the other hand, he has a right to believe what he wants and (within reason, depending on where he is at the time, etc.) say what he wants on the subject – as do many other people with the same viewpoint. In the end, it didn’t stop me seeing the film (which I thought was OK, but not great), so the combination of that mediocre experience and Card’s views have pushed reading his other work (I gather the book is much better the film) quite a way down my list and tend to add most new stuff above it, but at least it’s still in there.

  4. Damien says:

    I had written a reply but then lost it in a PEBCAK incident. Damnit.

    Anyway.

    Is there a difference between someone’s beliefs, content they create, and actions they perform?

    Is there a difference if someone lived in a time when certain actions and beliefs were “the norm” vs today when they’re frowned upon?

    Is there a difference whether or not we self-identify with the (potential) victim(s)?

    If, as I suspect is the case, most of this site’s readers are white males, does the fact that the misconduct does not, or would not, directly affect us give us leave to ignore the beliefs, statements or actions of artists we might otherwise support?

    Is there a difference between art created for critique vs art created to make a statement?

    Is there a difference between someone’s first amendment rights to speak their mind vs their ability to harass others?

    Is there a difference between someone’s repugnant actions and those who continue to support or protect them after the actions are discovered?

    If Berganza were replaced and another editor took over, would we go back to accepting the work produced under his control?

    Should we stop watching Mel Gibson’s movies because of his antisemitic & racist outburst a few years ago? Should we stop reading HP Lovecraft’s work because of the racist themes in some of his works, or his (non-fiction) racist writings? Should we stop watching Warner Brothers movies because some of their early animated work was clearly racist? Should we stop watching Bill Murray’s movies because of the alleged domestic violence against his then wife as was revealed in their 2008 divorce? Should we stop watching Woody Allen’s movies because of his (pediaphilic) rape of his step daughter?

    IMHO there’s a clear line between someone’s first amendment rights to be a racist or bigoted, and our willingness to support their work. I personally don’t believe Polanski or Allen should be supported by the movie industry anymore – their actions were repugnant – and if they’re not going to face the legal consequences of their actions then they need to disappear and never be publicly heard of again. I also don’t believe that the white male cisnormative portion of society can support actions that negatively affect others, so we shouldn’t ignore attacks against women and minorities, nor support & promote art created by those who would attack people in this way.

    So no, I don’t believe we should support DC work by Eddie Berganza, he should be fired and replaced by Shelly Bond, and those who protected him should have their positions questioned.

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