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ECCC Issues Statement After Image on Sunday Convention Badge Raises Concerns

If you’re attending Emerald City Comic Con on Sunday and have a single day only badge, you may have noticed some unsettling art on the badge itself. It depicts a particularly scared woman whose shirt is being opened by a decidedly creepy hand. Folks have tweeted their unhappiness with the art, asking why an image of a woman being sexually assaulted was being presented on a comic convention badge.

On first glance, it does appear that the woman is being sexually assaulted–the surprise/fear on her face, the body language, and the incredibly shadowy nature of the art imply as much.

However, according to an e-mail comment from ReedPOP, the parent company who oversees ECCC, the image doesn’t exactly depict any sexual assault within the context of the comic it’s advertising (The Discipline, Image Comics). They write:

We are aware that some Fans are uncomfortable with the art depicted on the ECCC Sunday Badge. The art on the Badge is from the Image Comics’ series The Discipline. Within the context of the comic, it is understood that these images do not depict non-consensual acts or sexual assault. Without that context, such as on the face of a Sunday Badge, that is not clear.

That last line in particular is what really lies at the core of the issue. Without context, one can’t be sure what exactly is happening in the image–good or bad. That being said, given the current air around sexual harassment and assault at conventions, maybe this bit of art wasn’t the best choice. As an advertisement alone, it’s pretty gag-worthy and somewhat exploitative (woman apparently being victimized by a dark hand) regardless of context.

But again: given the current negative convention culture, something like this definitely gives the wrong idea of what these events are really about.

ReedPOP is offering a bit of a remedy, though:

We would like to extend the offer to all Fans who are concerned that they may exchange their Badge on Sunday at Will Call for a different Badge that does not feature that art.

A bit of background on the comic: The Discipline is a comic published by Image Comics, written by Peter Milligan and drawn by Leandro Fernandez. According to an earlier interview between Milligan and Paste Magazine, the comic starts out as a “a pretty simple story of boredom and sexual awakening [that] quickly grows into something much wider, much older and much weirder.” Additionally, as quoted in a CBR review, Orlando, one of the comic’s characters, says, “This has nothing to do with sex. Or rather, the sex, the seduction… They’re just the means to an end.”

Depicted in the badge art is Melissa, the comic’s protagonist, who undergoes that “sexual awakening” mentioned in the earlier description. That “awakening” comes at the hands of Orlando, who comes off as a bit of a creep in the first issue, stalking Melissa and watching her from afar.

So given all that, I’m still not so sure how people should be made to feel comfortable toting a badge with this kind of art around. The choice to use this art just feels very shortsighted, and perhaps misguided.

To many people, this’ll seem like no big deal–“it’s just badge art, so what,” they’ll say. And for the most part, they’re right. It’s kind of a “small thing.” But (and there’s always a but) when you combine this “small thing” with a bunch of other “small things” (toxic nerd culture, the hyper-masculinity present in comics, etc.), suddenly it’s a much bigger deal.

Folks, it’s the little things that matter. There’s no telling whether this art might result in further action on the part of fans, or even if an exchange is enough to ease their thoughts. But again: making the choice to use this art versus just about anything else just feels like a mistake.

What do you think? What’re your thoughts on the badge art?

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