Reports of Stan Lee’s sexual misconduct surfaced online earlier this week when his nurses accused him of groping and demanding oral sex in his home in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. Apart from these allegations, a source with knowledge of the issue also shared his other acts to the Daily Mail UK, including walking around naked, using vulgar words around these young nurses, and asking them to give him pleasure in the bedroom. The nursing company employing these women is currently in a legal dispute against the 95-year-old comic book icon, however, no police complaints nor lawsuits have been filed. The UK tabloid also reports that back in April 2017, Lee demanded sex from and masturbated in front of a hotel masseuse in Chicago. He was in Chicago to attend the The Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo from the 21st to the 23rd of April. Lee, through his lawyer, categorically denies all these allegations.
Yet this is not the first time Marvel has been hit with allegations of sexual misconduct. When DC fired Superman editor Eddie Berganza for sexual harassment allegations last November 2017, Marvel hired Ron Richards as Vice-President and Managing Editor of New Media. Shortly after, a barrage of accusations against Richards hit the Internet, with women making the accusations and men calling him out. Nick Hanover, co-founder of Loser City Multimedia Collective, stated on his Twitter that one of Richards’ former partners went public about his abuse. In 2016, Hanover expressed his frustrations towards the comic book industry for their apparent silence regarding Richards:
Remember when some people in comics tried to talk about issues women had with Ron Richards and dudes said “he was always nice to me!”
— Nick Hanover (@Nick_Hanover) July 1, 2016
Various stories of sexual misconduct also appeared in The Mary Sue’s report in 2015, way before allegations against Harvey Weinstein cropped up. The report narrates from a source that,
“Marvel Comics employs a non editorial staffer who staff now apparently seat away from any women at events. He’s well known for his wandering hands, and they tend to wander up the legs of women nearby without asking for consent first. The same source told about another Marvel regular who worked on very prominent titles in the 80s and 90s is well-known for inappropriate touching.”
Make no mistake – sexism and sexual harrassment issues are rife not just at Marvel and DC, but the comic book industry. Sadly, it may also be happening in other countries. But since they’re not from Marvel and DC, we’re not hearing about them.
Why Marvel should speak up
With the current power that Marvel has in the comic book and film industries, they have the responsibility to speak out about such a relevant social issue. Even if Scarlett Johansson refuses to comment about the now-infamous movie producer Harvey Weinstein, Marvel executives should be more upfront in addressing issues such as sexism, misogyny, and abuse. This is not to say that they should immediately denounce Lee, Richards and other accussed staffers. What they must have is the courage to speak out and conduct internal investigations, not immediately deny, keep mum or a safe, ‘hands-off’ approach. As it was mentioned in their comic Amazing Fantasy Vol 1 #15, “With great power there must also come — great responsibility”. Their power in the Hollywood and comic book worlds compels them to act with more responsibility when it comes to protecting victims of sexual abuse.
Victims aren’t as loud as Hollywood personalities nor staff or Bill Cosby’s accusers. However, their stories are just as important, and merit space in discussions about misogyny and sexism. With Marvel speaking out, it might help victims of sexual abuse in the comic book industry to find courage, speak out and demand accountability from their abusers. It might also inspire other comic book companies and film production houses not just to speak out, but address the issue head-on. Will it change the comic book industry’s largely heterosexual male-centric culture? No. But it might help.
Most importantly, Marvel speaking up might encourage more fans to call out sexism and sexual abuse, or at least discuss these issues.
There’s this fear in each us to hold the people we admire or what we hold dear accountable for their harmful biases, actions, and inactions. Our fandoms are a reflection of a part of us, and so it’s painful for us to call out inappropriate behavior within the circle. But despite the pain and diasappointment it brings us to a personal level, we must address the issues our favorite public personalities and entertainment franchises face and demand they take responsibility. Because in the end, that will make your fandom a better one, and even for those outside of it.