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Scott Lobdell Outs Self as Comic Con Panel Sexual Harasser

Two days ago cartoonist and comics professional MariNaomi published a piece on xoJane entitled “It Happened to Me: I Was Sexually Harassed Onstage at a Comic Convention Panel.” In it she describes a truly awful experience: accepting an opportunity to speak on a panel about queer comics, and enduring another panelist with a “bigger” career in the industry than her questioning her bisexuality, expressing a distracting sexual attraction to her, and offering a veiled sexual proposition, all during the course of the panel. MariNaomi chose to anonymize the identity of her harasser with the initials DB, but Scott Lobdell, writer of the New 52 titles Red Hood and the Outlaws, Teen Titans, Superboy, and Superman, today stepped forward to identify himself and apologize.

You can (and should) read MariNaomi’s story in her own words and pictures at xoJane, but in brief sentences: Lobdell was the only straight person on the panel. He excused losing his train of thought on being distracted by MariNaomi’s lipstick, grabbing her stained drinking glass as a visual aid for the audience. When her microphone drooped on a lose hinge, he made the joke illustrated by MariNaomi at the top of this article. After recounting one story from her graphic memoir, of innocently mistaking her first attraction for a woman as a food craving, he asked if she had then had an orgasm while eating. After receiving a response in the negative, he implied that she must have mistaken her sexual identity, and really only be into men. He asked her if he had a chance of appearing in a sequel to her first book, a memoir of her adolescent sex life. After the panel, when introduced to her husband, Lobdell became immediately contrite and apologized… but only to MariNaomi’s husband. During the after panel group shot, he made a racist remark about her Asian facial features.

Lobdell offered his apology for publication on The Beat to Editor in Chief Heidi MacDonald, who had published a righteously strident (if I may say so myself) editorial on MariNaomi’s account of the panel yesterday. MacDonald understandably ran it by MariNaomi first, and published it along with her own comments. Offering an apology for hurting someone when you genuinely felt, in the moment, that you were being charming and funny, is a tricky business. Of utmost importance is that you stress that your attempt in making jokes resulted in not-jokes, that you not rest on “well if you knew me better you’d know I was joking,” and that you affirm what was unclear from your earlier interaction: that you are aware that the person you hurt is a human being.

Lobdell apologizes “for offending a fellow comic book creator.” He says he is sad that he did not realize she was offended by his “failed attempt at humor” at the time so he could not immediately apologize to “MariNaomi or her husband,” that he is sad because he was very impressed by the candor of her work, and that MariNaomi did not deserve to be treated the way he treated her. On that last note, I think I can firmly agree. You can read the full text of his apology here, and your mileage may vary.

It’s hard to get around the fact that when Scott Lobdell met MariNaomi, he treated her as less than human. It is not okay, in any sense of the word, to jokingly say to a stranger things that many folks say with all seriousness, not to mention a stranger sitting captive in front of an audience, and expect to be taken as charming. It’s also hard to ignore that he continues to include MariNaomi’s husband in his new apology. We no longer live in a world where it is reasonable for people who are expected to play to the tastes of, for example, the young demographic that DC comics purports to be after to be ignorant of certain negative social issues. Certain negative social issues like the scrutiny and ridicule that bisexuals undergo for not adhering to either a fully heterosexual or homosexual identity; or that women are often praised first for their appearance or capacity to receive the favorable sexual gaze of men rather than their creative achievements, often doubly so for women who identify other than straight; or that women are less likely to be the targets of harassment if they appear to be associated with or “claimed” by a man, because many harassers respect a man’s “right” to claim “dibs” on a woman more than the autonomy and humanity of a woman.

That Lobdell immediately came forward with a public apology, even though her account of his behavior did not name him specifically, is a step forward from the last major male-creator-on-subordinate-female-comics-creator story to spread through the industry. Let us hope there are many more steps forward in the future.

(Top picture by MariNaomi for xoJane.)

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  • athenia45

    It never ceases to amaze me that there seems to be a DIRECT line between these writers’ sexualized comics (*cough*Starfire*cough*) and how they treat women in real life.

  • Kathryn (@Loerwyn)

    Yeah, gotta admit there was an aspect of “quelle surprise” when I saw the titles he worked on.

  • Jon E. Christianson

    What a coincidence! /sarcasm

    And let us not forget the Teen Titans storyline where Trigon mind controls Red Robin and Wonder Girl into having sex with each other and Red Robin and Solstice (who was dating the Flash at the time) into having sex.

  • Adrian

    Yeah, after reading Red Hood & the Outlaws #1, I knew this dude was messed up. It’s easily the worst of The New 52 (that I’ve seen, anyway…).

  • Neal

    It was the right thing to do to out himself, and I’m sure it took courage, but we shouldn’t applaud it or put him up for some form of admiration when that’s the least he should have done. Susana, I think you were trying to avoid that too.

    I have been called on bad behaviour before, and I had to step back and re-fortify by values and take steps to make sure it didn’t happen again. I hope Scott fully denounces his behaviour and encourages others to treat women as they should be treated. Apologizing because he’s ‘stepping into another dude’s territory’ isn’t the right motivation, and is only the flimsiest of barriers that fails to rectify the causes of entitlement like this.

  • Curuniel

    Voluntarily identifying himself is admirable. A lot of other things here aren’t – and it’s still possible he stepped forward for PR reasons, figuring it would come out eventually once the story hit the internet – but I agree that this is an important step forward.

  • Indigo

    I call this a fauxpology.

    He doesn’t seem to realize why what he did was wrong, or that pointing the apology at her husband and not at her was wrong.

    Let alone that he doesn’t seem to realize he was not behaving like a professional.

  • Anonymous

    I can only be reminded, at times like these, of Chris Rock’s line about men who “take care of their kids”:

    “Wadda want, a *bleeping* cookie? You’re SUPPOSED to take care of your kids!”

    Yes, many people do crass things — I’ll throw myself under that bus right now! And yet, like others have said, I’m not seeing where Lodbell even realizes how many ways he offenced — even worse, why. You’re supposed to not harass people; that’s Being Civilized 101. To me, being a adult starts with the apology, and continues onto “try to make sure you know how not to do it again.”

    The feeling I keep getting from these reactions to being called out is more a “head in sand” effect, at best a “say the minimum and move on”. Rather, I’d hope to see an attempt to really come to grips with why they think it’s OK to make these comments, and how our society is only now building a framework to shame them into stopping.

    Moreover: MariNaomi’s POV is the one that really counts, and I despise even more that Lodbell’s likely getting plaudits for dealing with this “maturely” while she’s dealing with personal fallout and, no doubt, asshats. Despite what occured with Wood, I wonder how much traction this story would have gotten had Lodbell not come forward, and what that says about how we discuss these events in the larger geek-oriented media, even one like Mary Sue.

  • AnnaB

    “and it’s still possible he stepped forward for PR reasons, figuring it would come out eventually once the story hit the internet”

    I’m even willing to give him that if that were really the case. At least he took that advice–many wouldn’t have been so wise. He gets a cookie. But that’s it.

  • Jude Krauss

    Given the stuff he has written (Red Hood and the Outlaws, for example), I’m not surprised at his real-life behavior. :(

  • MeatyStakes

    Yeah, and then people say there’s no relation between how women and sexuality are portrayed in comics and how these creators and fans see women, “It’s just escapism!! gosh.”

    Yeah, right.

  • Mateusz Krenz

    So the guy comes forward and all everybody is gonna do is chastise him for the crap he’s written and this being a faux apology. How are we supposed to progress if we beat down on people trying to repair some of the damage he’s done ?

  • locuas

    You mean the guy who made starfire from an interesting character into a living sex toy made insensitive comments? what a shock

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, this. Tip: don’t sexually harass people—regardless of whether they would be offended, or whether they have a husband. I mean… cripes. Apologizing was the right thing to do, but I’m not wowed by this. And he doesn’t earn brownie points for having done so.

  • Eisen

    He did not try to repair. I read his statement more than once, and I don’t see a proper apology. It’s only “I’m sorry if my misleaded attempt of humour offended you” – and that’s a not-apology. It’s “sorry that you don’t get me”.
    I’m not willing to handing out cookies for a lame statement like this.

  • Mateusz Krenz

    Yeah went back and read his statement and your right it’s pretty bad. Don’t know what I saw the first time.

  • Eisen

    It was the same to me. At the first reading I thought: ‘this acutally sounds quite nice’. I think that’s the reason politicians use this kind of apology so often.

  • Rachel Keslensky – Last Res0rt

    And also the reason why people call that shit out when they see it.

    We get why politicians do it, but when a “real person” does it it just reads assholian.

  • Carmen Sandiego

    His apology is hollow in my opinion. And it seems like it may not have come at all if she didn’t have a husband, like that’s relevant to what he did to her.

  • JustPlainSomething

    I can’t get over how gross this whole thing was.

    Sidenote: who the hell thought “We’re doing a panel on gay and bisexual representation in comics … let’s get Scott Lobdell!”?

  • Carmen Sandiego

    Also, I don’t think the sexual jokes are even the worst of it. He was touching her without her permission. Before, during and after. WTF? Don’t ever touch someone without consent, even just to touch their arm, unless they’re about to fall in front of a speeding bus or something.

  • electrasteph

    That was my question, too – who the hell put Scott Lobdell on an LGBT panel? I asked Mark Waid that when he tried to claim that Lobdell doesn’t have enough power in the industry to influence anyone’s career – obviously he has enough power that someone invited him to speak on a panel that he’s *clearly* not qualified to appear on.

  • Anonymous

    I absolutely agree with MariNaomi’s point that he basically dehumanized her by apologizing directly at the time to her husband and not her.

    In this follow-up, though, I think he continues to reference her husband because he made the jokes (at her expense) in front of her husband. And because the jokes were of a sexual nature, they also indirectly came at her husband’s expense (although to a much lesser degree). This way, he’s also apologized for making the husband sit through a humiliation of his wife, as, in essence, by making the comments so public, he forced MariNaomi’s husband to watch his wife be humiliated. So because of that, I don’t think including her husband is *necessarily* denying her autonomy again. It might be. But I see why someone or anyone would word it so.

    Not to say whether I think much of the apology. Honestly, I think so many apologies go over so badly, that I don’t think it’s worth obsessing over whether it was “right.” It seems way more telling to focus on this guy’s actions later. If he stops this, if people interacting with him think he’s changed, then the outrage over whether his apology is appropriately worded or not is moot.

    Plus, in the end, it’s most important how MariNaomi feels about this apology. He’s not apologizing to us; he’s apologizing to her (and her husband, as it were). If she’s OK with it, then I think we should all just stand down and accept it. Yes, his harassment of her is part of a larger endemic problem, so in a way, he’s sort of making it worse for a lot more people than just two when he harassed MariNaomi, but this is both a bigger issue and a single event in a specific person’s life. Her feelings about this should be paramount.

  • Anonymous

    That same line came to my mind too. Yes, coming forward and publicly apologising was the right thing to do, but even better was not doing this in the first place. As you say, the best thing to do now was to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

    If more people see that someone acted this way, came forward and apologised, and his apology was acknowledged without people calling for his head, that would hopefully show anyone else that coming forward clears the air for all involved – most importantly, it validates the person who was wronged in the first place, and gives hope to others.

  • totz the plaid

    I saw no apology in his comments, just self-absorbed double-talk and assholery.

  • Eve

    I agree. I wouldn’t call this an apology so much as an attempt to cover his ass preemptively. His line about not realizing he was offending her is bullshit. He apologized immediately to her HUSBAND, which means he knew he was treating her as a sexual object.

  • Natalie Reed

    But sometimes NOT. Remember that the guy from the Last Creator Harrassment Scandal was a guy known and praised for all his “feminist comics”. And that guy didn’t apologize.

    I think we need to remember that what we perceive in the work DOESN’T necessarily reflect their treatment of women IRL. The work can be sexist, the person’s actions can be sexist, etc. But looking for some kind of all-encompassing sexism is usually the wrong track to follow.

  • Laura Truxillo

    Because…Bunker, maybe?

  • Sally Strange

    How are we supposed to progress if we beat down on people trying to repair some of the damage he’s done ?

    “We” do not need to progress. People like Lobdell need to progress, and that will only happen when they demonstrate that their behavior is definitively changed from what it was before.

    If he can’t handle criticism then he should go home.

    If you want to coddle harassers, maybe you should too.

  • Sally Strange

    For real. I’d be shocked if he hasn’t done this to other women.

  • Gary Keyes

    These so called “writers” never grew up. Lobdell sounds like there are parts of his brain that are still like a 12 year old. Everyone at DC needs to grow up!

  • Starman

    I’ve thought of Lobdell as a hack writer since before The New 52 started.

    When he rage-quit Twitter when other professionals took him to task over his treatment of Starfire, I concluded he was a bad writer and a thin-skinned man-child.

    With this news, I’ve lost what little respect I would give him as a sentient life form.

  • Diedra Rater

    I also thought it was a tad weird that he brought up her husband yet again.. what exactly does he have to do with it? Other than that, I thought the apology was really nice, and it’s pretty brave of him to publicly own up to his behavior even though he was not named in the comic. (But it’s possible he figured it would come out eventually considering some of the people in the audience must have been fans of MariNaomi and would therefore follow her blog and recognize the incident.)

  • Fisty

    Wish I had made a stink each time a woman was inappropriate to me at work. Shitty shitty jokes though.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly. Yet how often do we see examples in the news of people who can’t seem to manage this? I was talking with friends about the many examples of public non-apologies. We came to a definition of apology pretty much like what you say above. And out of the group, only one of us had received an apology that qualified as real rather than “I’m sorry if you were hurt” and similar BS.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly. Yet how often do we see examples in the news of people who can’t seem to manage this? I was talking with friends about the many examples of public non-apologies. We came to a definition of apology pretty much like what you say above. And out of the group, only one of us had received an apology that qualified as real rather than “I’m sorry if you were hurt” and similar BS.

  • Saraquill

    I’m surprised his apology didn’t say “I’m sorry if anyone was offended.” What he did say was slightly better, but still skimpy.

  • Anonymous

    Once commentor on the comicsbeat post made an excellent point – Lobdell doesn’t actually admit his comments were inappropriate – but sounds more apologetic that the recipient didn’t “get” his humor.

    Failed attempt at humor? What part of it was supposed to be funny?

    It’s also pretty tempting to think that Lobdell realized his identity would be outed and this is his attempt at some damage control – rather than any sincere regrets.

  • Lien

    This is something that bothers me a lot too. Not talking about this whole “fauxpology” (i am still biting my cheeks out of this so i don’t start breaking everything in my room in a fit of rage) but how people treat Bisexual people. I am straight but i heard enough from my bi friends when they constantly meet the assumptions they are promiscuous and sometimes flat out told so right to their face.. sometimes from my close friends (or from me too :( ) . When ya hurt someone like that, it’s best to do your ressearch on why it offended them rather then claim they don’t know any better. Man or woman, every bi person i know has a story similiar to what MariNaomi experienced. Kateordie made an awesome comic based on that awful stereotype:

    Hey, here’s a news for people like Scott here, a person’s sexuality is no reasoning to define the personality before even knowing said person… especially when her husband was right there! You can improve yourself to stop hurting people’s feeling without sacrificing anything of your personality, it just takes a little effort at first then you’ll be a natural at making friends!

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think this is necessarily true. One’s actions needn’t be wrong in an absolute sense in order to spark a genuine apology. I can genuinely feel bad about and want to apologize for causing someone pain or offense even if whatever I did to cause that result was acceptable behavior in and of itself. “I’m sorry my actions hurt you” is a perfectly legit apology.

  • Lien

    Like the old american saying goes, “Even the devil would preach on a pile of bible”.
    When someone champions himself for the sake of equality and justice, they aren’t excluded of the accusation of harassment or discrimination. I am not saying we need to start looking at ourselves before we start pointing fingers, i am saying it’s best not to forgive a person’s action because he or she has a good record on treating people right.

  • Lien

    …wait why are we letting this guy even speak at a LGBT panel in the first place?

  • imelda

    Could not care less that this man confessed. What he did was unforgivable, and betrayed what a sick person he is.

    And it sickens me how much more sense this story made to me when it became clear that MariN is Asian. Racist and sexist. Just despicable.

  • Anonymous

    …that is incredibly creepy. What a creeper. An apology is better than no apology, but that doesn’t mean I’ll forget this or that I think that apology really showed that he understood why these things were bad, and how they were bad, and what it actually meant beyond ‘oops, caught in public saying controversial humorz lol.’

    And like so many others are pointing out: why is he even on this panel.

  • Saraquill

    What was the moderator doing during the panel? Surely hir job is to keep peace and order during talks.

  • Anonymous

    Fake apology is fake. He didn’t apologize, he just tried to excuse his actions.

  • Anonymous

    “I also thought it was a tad weird that he brought up her husband yet again.. what exactly does he have to do with it?”

    He defines women by their relationship to men.

  • Anonymous

    He references her husband because he defines her in relation to him, rather than as her own person.

    Since you know, she doesn’t have a penis but he does.

  • Anonymous

    I’ll give him a recipe, but no ingredients.

  • Kerry Maxwell

    Har, har! You would have us believe you have a job and interact with women! (clutches sides laughing).

  • Anonymous

    I read MariNaomi’s account and I’m so angry I’m spitting! Mostly at the MODERATOR!
    It’s an impossibly difficult situation for a panelist to respond and shoot down this kind of passive-aggressive harassment in front of whole audience. It’s the moderator’s responsibility to react and act on making a panelist harassing another one and taking the topic off track to Shut The F*** UP!!!

    I really think Cons need to work with moderators beforehand and talk about how to handle difficult situations like these and others.

    And Lobdell doesn’t have a clue still what he did wrong (he only ‘outed’ himself because it’s so easy to find out who she was talking about). I would hope DC sent him on a course but there is just no way they did more than tell him not to do it infront of an audience next time.

  • Anonymous

    The character of Rainmaker in Gen13 was one of the most fanservicey characters ever written. What would have been a really groundbreaking character of being Native American and bisexual turned into a sex doll with the Chasing Amy style hook-up with the straight guy and gratuitous shots of her in various states of undress. Yet he got many many accolades for her character.

  • hh

    This wasn’t really a public apology – he sent it to his friend, who posted it on the blog. Lodbell didn’t handle this maturely, he weaseled out by not apologizing to her and not really apologizing for what he did, just for people’s failure to get his “humor.” That just sends the message that you can do whatever you want without being held accountable for it, as long as you write a nicely worded letter.

  • Laura Truxillo

    Yeah, I gotta admit, it’s all absolutely awful, but if you’re sitting on a panel SPECIFICALLY ABOUT inclusion of LGBT characters in comics and LBGT writers…you think you would have enough decency not to make “I guess you aren’t REALLY bisexual” or “bisexual–that means you’ll do anyone, right!” type jokes. Oy.

  • Laura Truxillo

    I wouldn’t call it that brave. Enough people were at that panel that somebody would have eventually identified him online. Apologizing first reeks of getting out in front of it. And the apology itself has far too much of “I’m sorry y’all didn’t get my joke” and too little understanding of why he was inappropriate.

  • Laura Truxillo

    What other writers? What rage-quit? Is this for reading somewhere, because i don’t remember that.

  • The Bechtloff

    Oh the poor dear, someone made some jokes around her. Let me get my violin. You know, girl geeks often complain they aren’t treated as equal, maybe step one would be to act like equals. You realize us guy nerds joke around and rip on each other too, and maybe you catching some of it isn’t exclusion, it’s actually inclusion.

    Unless of course you would prefer us to walk around on eggshells around you, in which case you never truly will be part of the group. Your choice.

  • K. Johnston

    Because Scott totally rips on guys the same way. It’s not like he focused on her specifically and also babbled apologies to her husband (not her) afterward.

    He was just being equal, y’all!

  • Deana

    I think what most bothers me is this argument that always comes up first: “It was humor,” “I didn’t mean it,” “I’d joke that way with anyone; it’s not personal.”

    Even if that’s true–that he didn’t mean any personal harm–I want to know when the community will realize that “it’s just a joke” is not acceptable. It doesn’t clear you from taking responsibility for the weight of your words. Communication is two-sided and it’s irresponsible to not consider how what you say will be interpreted or how it’ll make another person feel, regardless of your intentions.

    Beyond that, it’s just not funny. Where is the punchline in sexual harrassment? That’s just something I don’t understand. When it’s only the joker laughing at a joke, there’s a problem.

  • Starman
  • Deana

    Apples to oranges.

    A group of friends privately ragging on each other is one thing.

    But look at the venue. Look at the context. This was a public forum in a professional setting. This was a stranger talking to a stranger. If she were male, the comments would be just as inappropriate.

    Consider the nature of his comments. These were personal and sexual. Most of the male geeks I know don’t sexually harass each other. And while we all trash talk and tease, there’s the kind that says “We give you hell because you’re one of us.” But I think Lobdell’s comments can clearly be understood as the other kind: “You aren’t what you say you are, are you? Get the heck out.

  • AnnaB

    That wasn’t on you. We can’t apologize for thinking the best of people. That wasn’t your fault. Lobdell’s just a huge jerk and we can’t do much about that.

  • AnnaB

    Why don’t you just keep manslpaining that. Go on.

  • The Bechtloff

    Well then, I guess walking on eggshells it is.

  • Laura Truxillo

    Wow. Just…oh wow. I do not have enough popcorn.

    It always makes me sad because his work on Generation X mean so much to me.

  • athenia45

    Well, that’s what I’m trying to say, I always try to keep an open mind, but then BAM! My good will is torpedoed.

  • AnnaB

    I think it’s just a matter of diversity. Any creative person is expected to bring something interesting to the table and you never think what they’ll bring is sexual harassment, and then they surprise us–in a bad way.

  • JustPlainSomething

    After this came out, one of my tumblr acquaintances told me that Lobdell has hit on her before. She said that basically if you’re a lady fan and you get to go to industry stuff, Lobdell will hit on you. Classy. And it really does hit me hard how casual her answer was … really, she wasn’t at all surprised about this news.

  • JustPlainSomething

    Or just don’t be an asshole.

  • Justin Case

    I wanna point out that, besides whatever point you’ve tried to make, you are indeed an idiot. (*cough*Starfire*cough*)

  • JustPlainSomething

    And he killed off Artemis during her new 52 introduction so that Robin could avenge her.

  • karry karry

    So the panel was composed entirely out of pervs and brain-damaged people ? Seems consistent to me.