July 1, 2017

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No Pride for Image's Decision to Publish Chaykin's Comic

We at Panel Patter pride ourselves on our work promoting the comics we like best. Once upon a time, Rob even quipped that Panel Patter was where we shared the Gospel of Good Comics.

Well, sometimes the sermon needs to have some fire and brimstone. Unfortunately, this is one of those times.

This post was written collaboratively with input from the current main team of writers: Rob, Scott, James, and Mark. All of us are very upset at the recent cover posted for Howard Chaykin's comic, which is published by Image Comics. We will not dignify that cover by linking to it, and we honestly urge people not to seek it out if violence against minorities may cause you psychological harm.

We begin this statement by reminding you that we also believe strongly in the freedom of a creator to create, even if it's hateful, and for a publisher to publish such hate. We are against censorship and either are or have been members of the CBLDF or donated to their organization. Whether anyone likes the ghastly images that Mr. Chaykin is currently creating or not, he absolutely has the right to make them. And, no matter how much we'd prefer it not be sent across the world in digital or print, Image certainly has the right to publish him.

But having the right to publish something and making the decision to publish something are two different matters. And when you decide to put your iconic symbol on a comic like Divided States of Hysteria, no matter how loose your organizational structure, you are saying, "I think this idea is valid and should be sold to other people." When you sign that contract with the creator, you are saying, "I want to to release this comic with our implicit approval."

We are well aware of the "Image Model." We know of their pride in the independence of their creators.  We know that they are pleased to publish a CBLDF comic yearly. We know they are a company who is delighted when Saga or Bitch Planet offends people. It is a company that has a reputation for being on the edge of things.

The problem is that Mr. Chaykin's comic, like most of his more recent work, isn't edgy. It's done merely for shock value. It's not adding to conversation at all--instead, the comic adds to a pattern of cheap violence directed at non-cis white men so they can show how "dark" their work is or make "a commentary on society." The concept is so overdone, it's not even funny, and Chaykin himself has been playing that tune for a decade at least. It's a pattern that's been creeping into his work for quite some time, as our Scott Cederlund plans to explore, to provide some context in the coming days to how we get to a comic that's gleeful in its expression of hatred towards the most oppressed people in our society.

There are plenty of comics that push boundaries being published today. We are fans of many of them. But this is not a comic that's using its violence to show why we need to be better to our fellow humans. It's a book designed to shock and offend and get as much attention as possible.

Well, congratulations. It's getting attention, all right.

When this comic first debuted, we were uncomfortable with it. Rob was planning to let it "die in darkness" as it were. But then the cover for the 4th issue was revealed, and we as a team could not be silent.

We will not allow a comic that harms our trans family to be unchallenged.
We will not allow a comic that harms our family of color to be unchallenged.
We will not allow a comic that harms our Muslim family to be unchallenged.

Barely a month ago, in Image's own new city of Portland, two men died trying to stop hatred stoked by people espousing the same kinds of rhetoric and opinions expressed in Mr. Chaykin's comic. In England, France, and Iran, Muslims are dying at the hands of fanatics. There might be a great comic that can comment on these issues.

Divided States of Hysteria is not that comic. We urge you, our readers, to steer clear. We urge Mr. Chaykin to consider how his actions by writing and drawing this comic caused pain for so many people. We urge Image to think carefully about how they go about approving projects and how much guidance they provide. Creative freedom is good, but they have hurt countless numbers of comics fans. For ever person who buys this comic, there's going to be at least one--maybe more than one--who walks away from the comics medium for good, their last memory of going into a comic store a recreation of a horrific scene that the KKK uses to instill fear.

Comics can be better than this. Image has countless comics out there that are better than this. We hope Mr. Chaykin is better than this.

But Panel Patter is a place that will always be a home for those who might be rejected elsewhere. And we will continue to speak out against hate within our community. Whether intentional or not, Divided States of America is hate speech. Let's make it the last one Image puts its name on by ensuring they know it's unacceptable.

Signed with love for those in our community who are hurting right now,

James
Mark
Rob
Scott