Buzzfeed News Reminds Us: Eddie Berganza Is Still A Group Editor at DC Comics, Still Serially Harassed Women
Buzzfeed News has published allegations from three women who say that DC Comics’ Eddie Berganza sexually harassed or assaulted them in the past, as well as testimony from five people (including two of those women) who say they reported his behavior to DC management. Though the allegations against Berganza – which include groping and forcible kissing – were first publicly revealed back in April of 2016, and known to DC by at least 2010, he has kept his prominent position overseeing dozens of titles.
And the women who reported him? “We all left, and he’s still there,” said Janelle Asselin, who used to work at DC and filed an HR complaint against Berganza in 2010. “That, to me, tells me what DC Comics’ priority is.”
Below is a rough timeline of the allegations in the Buzzfeed article. I encourage you to read the entire thing, as it also details the cultural, less concrete ways that Berganza’s alleged harassment has affected the company, but below is the SparkNotes of DC’s complicity:
- In the early 2000s, Berganza cornered DC editor Joan Hilty, an out lesbian, at a staff get-together and “grabbed her and repeatedly tried to pull her in for a kiss.” She repeatedly told him “no,” but he kept insisting until she said: “If you don’t take that arm off me, I’m gonna break it.” She didn’t report the incident to management, and was laid off from DC in 2010.
- In December 2006, Liz Gehrlein Marsham was working at DC Comics and went to an after-work party. Berganza forcibly kissed her and then again “stuck his tongue in her mouth as she chewed on a french fry.” Later in the night he “approached and tried to grope her … one hand reaching for her hip and the other aiming for her side under her breasts.” She didn’t report the incident to management.
- In the spring of 2010, word gets around that Berganza is on the shortlist to become DC Comics’ executive editor. Concerned about what he might do in a position of power, “a total of five people — four then-current employees, including Marsham and Asselin, and one ex-employee, Hilty — confirmed to BuzzFeed News that they shared their Berganza stories, observations, or concerns with HR that summer.”
- In October 2010, despite the multi-employee reports to HR, Berganza is named executive editor. However, “whereas before, the executive editor would have had staffers reporting directly to him, under the reorganization, Berganza’s role was now strictly creative … All the people who would have reported to the executive editor were to now report to the editor-in-chief.”
- Marsham, who was a coordinating editor at the time, told then-editor-in-chief Bob Harras: “You know I can’t edit books that [Berganza] has oversight on. I guess I just won’t be able to edit any books.” Harras “didn’t protest” her conclusion, and Marsham turned all her attentions away from creative and onto “scheduling and administrative tasks.” In sum, DC let Berganza’s promotion impede the career of a woman he harassed.
- At WonderCon in 2012, Berganza forcibly kissed a woman who was there with her then-boyfriend, a writer who works at DC. The woman chose to remain anonymous for the article, but she said: “At the time I was so terrified that this would affect myself or my partner’s prospects in comics, worried it would jeopardize either of our careers.” The incident was later reported in the comics press, and Berganza was demoted from executive editor to group editor.
Responding to Buzzfeed, DC Comics issued a bland statement that’s very similar to the one they made made back in 2016. “DC and WB are unequivocally committed to cultivating a work environment of dignity and respect,” they told Buzzfeed, “one that is safe and harassment free for all employees. We take all claims of harassment very seriously and investigate them promptly. Employees found in violation of the policies are dealt with swiftly and decisively, and subject to disciplinary actions and consequences.”
And yet … As many have pointed out, while the testimonies of these women are powerful and damning, this isn’t exactly news to anyone in comics. Berganza’s been a known, named quantity in the press for over a year, and he has reportedly been a known, named serial harasser to DC Comics’ HR department since at least 2010. But still he remains, overseeing major events like Justice League Metal, handling and critiquing the work of freelancers, at a company where the credits on their comic books are still only 15.3% female.
Companies don’t get to choose whether they’ll eventually have to deal with a sexual harassment case. That’s a question of statistics. But they do get to choose how they respond to it – and DC Comics has made its choice. Repeatedly.
(Via Buzzfeed News; image via DC Comics)
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