It’s strange how so much isn’t surprising. Chris Sims, currently of ComicsAlliance and Marvel’s rose-tinted X-Men ’92–you might know him as @theisb or that guy with the laughing pink guy twitter icon, fan amongst fans– used to be the kind of fanboy who would lock onto hate like a dog on the last dear bone of their skeleton master. Valerie D’Orazio (a woman! Of course), a writer whom he pelted, pelted, pelted, with criticism and focus during that unpleasant time, tumbl’d her history with Sims, this week. The history was: he did not like her writing, and subsequently he harassed her, and ring-led harassment of her, to the point of medically diagnosable trauma. He paid her so much negative attention that it infected her and she became lastingly unwell. She has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. She is American and has accrued resultant healthcare bills. This cannot be forgiven as an action from the beforetimes, when no-one got arrested for online threats and nobody had even heard of GamerGate. Internet harassment didn’t become real or immoral at some distinct, agreed-upon point, friends, it was real as soon as somebody did it. Chris Sims did it. He was that guy.
At this point now he’s “the guy who used to be a shithead.” His work says he’s a guy who cares. His friends say he’s a guy who cares. He says “Sorry, but, sorry.” I don’t want to be someone who doesn’t believe in somebody learning to be better–scratch that. I’m not someone who doesn’t believe in learning better. I absolutely do believe in the possibility of self-improvement. The potential for grace after mud is real, and so this is irrelevant. My faith in myself and the evolution of others does not depend on the soul of Chris Sims. Neither does yours. Come off that sidetrack.
Chris Sims might be a good man now and he’s a writer whose work is of a professional standard. However, Chris Sims is undeniably nerd-famous and on the up-and-up. He is a Big Name Fan made good; his career trajectory from blogger to commentator to indie writer to X-Men sandpit player is a clear stacking of name on work on name on work. Hard work, probably. Some hard, some cruel.
Chris Sims owes his X-Men ’92 tenure to the part of his life in which he was harassing Valerie D’Orazio because you can’t remove that part of his history, the Invincible Super-Blog years, from the timeline and still have it work. A “feud” is a keystone moment (Hogan/Andre, Hogan/Savage… If you pay attention to Sims you probably have an inkling that American Professional Wrestling exists and how feuds are used there to bolster rising stars. This is not specific to that industry). His professional momentum was powered by the attention of his readers and fans, and if those people (#notallfans) were there to read Sims vs D’Orazio, amongst whatever else, then they were there for the circus that nobody stopped to consider from the inside: they were there for the exercise in group misogyny that resulted in D’Orazio’s PTSD. Sims owes her. His platform owes her, whomever’s back it’s built on now. Marvel owes her for hiring him, like it owed her when it “warned” her, in D’orazio’s words, that there was a “harassing” atmosphere on the internet regarding my comic but didn’t shut that shit down. He has publicly apologised, but if sorry was enough–
(And if sorry was timely, and if sorry didn’t come after a first, private apology to her husband.)
If you step on my foot and my foot’s basically okay, sorry’s fine. I can dust myself off and no-one need pay any attention. If you drag a woman in comics, use her as a step in your ladder to the stars, and leave your footprints intact until you’re writing X-Men ’92, a reborn vision of thousands of people’s platonic understanding of “ohmigod, the X-Men, I love them, they’re a metaphor for diversity and the underprivileged!!”
Editor, writer, podcaster, and Sims’ close friend Rachel Edidin said
“He harassed Val viciously and serially and—intentionally or not (with the caveat that intentions are only tangentially relevant here)—because he did it from a pretty wide and public platform, that harassment did a lot to normalize and validate a lot of significantly more vicious harassment and misogyny in comics culture.”
It’ll be a tough turd to swallow, but that’s accrued responsibility that an apology can’t quite catch.
My favourite X-Man was always Rogue, who stole Carol Danvers’ life from her before I was aware of either of them. I kind of hate that part of her backstory.
I don’t read X-Men any more.