Dynamite Comics Drops “Vampirella” Variant Cover after Cancel Culture Backlash
Over the weekend, Dynamite Comics cancelled a crowdfunding campaign for a Vengeance of Vampirella variant cover featuring the internet comedian known only as “Cecil.” The book was already an overnight success, achieving its original funding goal in the first hour and raising more than $10k before the project was nixed. The cover itself featured a caricature of Cecil himself betwixt two buxom beauties- what’s not to love?
Well, this project seems to have angered a very vocal corner of the internet, which included an number of social media surfers and even some creators who are contracted with Dynamite. It seems that the online din became too much for Dynamite CEO Nick Barrucci to handle, who issued the below statement via Twitter on Sunday.
What spawned the backlash in the first place? It wasn’t that the art was risqué, as both Vampirella and Red Sonja are sometimes portrayed in a sexy manner. It wasn’t the content of the book, as Vengeance of Vampirella has been available in other formats – drama free – for quite some time. It wasn’t that the deal itself was unusual, as Dynamite has a history of allowing independent creators to crowdfund variant covers of their books in an effort to boost sales. No, the problem was that Cecil is a “ComicsGate” creator.
What is ComicsGate? We at The Spintering have previously used the following definition and still find it apt, though imperfect: ComicsGate is a loosely-knit network of comic book creators and consumers disillusioned with plummeting comics shop sales and concerns of political/ideological encroachment into the professional practices of the comics industry.
Certainly there are plenty of other definitions of ComicsGate that are at odds with our own. For example, some claim that ComicsGate is a racist, sexist (etc., etc.) movement, despite the network consistently promoting projects featuring female, minority, and LGBT characters, and books produced by female and minority creators. Others deride ComicsGate as “right-wing”, despite the group’s acceptance of several left-leaning creators, even an open communist (Cecil himself claims to be a registered Democrat and holds left-wing sentiments). Finally, there are those who assert that ComicsGate is a harassment/hate campaign, but when pressed for evidence, those making the charge are either unwilling to produce it, try to reframe legitimate criticism as “harassment”, or sometimes go so far as to say “trust me” and “Don’t Google it” for yourself. (1, 2)
To my knowledge, nobody has ever tied Cecil – as an individual – to any hate, harassment, racism, etc. So the outrage directed at him, which ultimately lost him his cover deal with Dynamite, was because he associates with a group of people – who number in the thousands – some of whom might have behaved poorly at some point – but are not demonstrably tied to Cecil in any way.
If that sounds a bit Looney Tunes to you, I envy you. You’ve clearly been blissfully unaware of the chilling effects of “Cancel Culture” over the past several years. Cancel Culture targets people in all walks of life, not just creative types, for offenses deemed “problematic” by politically correct online inquisitors. These offenses can also include having the “wrong” opinions, or in Cecil’s case, having relationships with people who have been declared unclean.
It is easy to dismiss this circumstance with the thought that “It’s just a cover.” And that’s true; it is. But as Voltaire once said, “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible”, with the avalanche being Cancel Culture, to be as plain as possible. Every lie, every threat and every cancelled project contributes to it, and the collective impact is devastating.
If my above editorializing (i.e. opinion) appears to be impassioned, that’s because I simply don’t see convincing arguments that support the worst accusations against ComicsGate. As with any large population, there are some within it that sometimes behave in unsavory ways. However, I refuse to define a person by the worst actions of their associations. I thought that doing otherwise was considered “bigotry”.
I personally don’t believe that those who create art should ever be afraid to express whatever opinions they like, yet Cancel Culture as a whole seems content to create an entire generation of artists who are fearful of losing their careers. Is that what we want? Art that is afraid?
In an emotional livestream, Cyberfrog creator and prominent ComicsGate voice Ethan Van Sciver shared his thoughts on the situation. Van Sciver announced that he could no longer work with Dynamite Comics, as their pulling the cover demonstrated that they are susceptible to online outrage pressure, thereby putting his own projects at risk. You can watch Van Sciver’s comments below.
Cecil himself? He’s keeping his chin up. After all, this isn’t the first time that he has had the rug pulled out from under one of his projects. He’s currently crowdfunding his own book titled Cash Grab on Indiegogo, which was in development hell for quite some time after other members of the creative team abruptly left the project in late 2018.
As for the artwork used on the Vampirella cover, Cecil likely won’t be able to use it in another format as he does not have the rights to use either the Vampirella or Red Sonja characters without Dynamite’s blessing. He could, however, have artist Donal DeLay refashion the artwork to show two different characters. May I suggest both Wyatt Holiday’s Ardanna and Martina Markota’s Lady Alchemy?
Skeptical of anything I’ve written above? Good. Certainly my opinion is skewed and the examples I cited are not exhaustive. Unlike ComicsGate detractors, however, I encourage you to “Google it.” Go directly to the primary sources and learn as much as possible before making your own judgements. Don’t blindly trust slanted articles or posts – even this one – that tell you about what someone said or did.
Instead, search out videos and live streams with both the fans and creators who make up ComicsGate, and decide for yourself what kind of people they are. I encourage you to start not just with Cecil and Ethan Van Sciver, but also check out Jon Malin, Dan Fraga, Mandy Summers, Shane Davis, Ikari Press and Alterna Comics, just to name a few. I also encourage you to share your honest opinion in the comments below.
No matter on which side of the divide you fall, I also encourage you to focus your reaction in a positive way. If you are upset with Dynamite’s decision, you can support Cecil by backing his Cash Grab book here. If you agree with Dynamite’s dropping the cover, then support them at your local comic shop.
I honestly hate writing about these kind of things. I’d much prefer to highlight independent, niche, or low-visibility entertainment in the spirit of escapism, which I hope to do more of soon.
In the meantime, fuck Cancel Culture.
It appears that Cecil and his artist Donal DeLay have already repurposed the variant cover artwork for the Cash Grab campaign, this time featuring Ethan Van Sciver’s Heather Swain character from Cyberfrog and Jon Malin’s Lilith character from Graveyard Shift. You can check out the new cover art below or visit the Cash Grab Indiegogo campaign page here.