November 16, 2017
A DC Comics editor is fired after female employees report sexual harassment
by Nikki Griffiths
Here comes another sleazebag ousted for sexual misconduct. We’ve recently written about sexual harassment in the publishing workplace, SHITTY MEDIA MEN, and Harvey Weinstein the Liar. Now, high-profile DC Comics editor Eddie Berganza has been fired following accusations of sexual harassment by three women.
Berganza joined DC in the nineties, rising through the ranks to become a name to be reckoned with. He has worked on comics including Superman, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman and had a hand in some of DC’s highest-profile launches, including Justice League, Infinite Crisis, and Blackest Night. His firing comes just as the presumptive blockbuster film adaptation Justice League is about to hit cinemas worldwide.
The allegations came to public attention through The Dark Side of DC Comics, a BuzzFeed News feature by Jessica Testa, Tyler Kingkade, and Jay Edidin. The writers spoke to women who had worked for DC, documenting years of reported harassment from Berganza. The piece opens with an account of what happened to Liz Gehrlein Marsham, then twenty-nine, within the first month of her hire: “Berganza cornered her, stuck his tongue in her mouth, and attempted to grope her.”
This was 2006; Marsham continued to work for DC another six years, feeling unsafe around Berganza. She told the reporters, “By the time I left I was really demoralized. I was physically ill from being stressed all the time and trying to hide it. I just felt like I needed to get out, however I could.”
In 2010, former DC editor Janelle Asselin filed a complaint with human resources about Berganza, on behalf of several female employees who’d experienced his inappropriate behaviour. Nothing was done about it. “It changed how I felt about comics forever,” she told the writers, “because we put our trust in them to do the right thing.”
Joan Hilty’s story echoes Marsham’s. She reported that Berganza had grabbed her and repeatedly tried to kiss her at a staff party.
“I tried to laugh it off, basically… I told myself it didn’t matter because it had been outside the workplace, or because I was gay, or because I didn’t report directly to him. I chose to overlook that it was a work-related event, that the power imbalance made it worse, and that it was wrong under any circumstances.”
At the time, Hilty had been at DC for half a decade and was respected at the company. Yet she hasn’t spoken out about Berganza until now. Marsham describes a feeling that “we had all fought really hard to get there…. We had jobs people were lining up around the block to get.”
When Hilty was laid off in 2010, Berganza was promoted to executive editor. He didn’t maintain the position for long: after a further allegation was made about him trying to forcibly kiss a woman in a hotel lobby during a conference in 2012, he was demoted to group editor — certainly still a position of power.
After the story’s publication, Twitter exploded with anger at DC’s casual tolerance of workplace predation. Publicist and writer Molly McIsaac and Hugo Award-winning author Marjorie Liu shared their own stories of Berganza’s predatory behaviour.
Eddie Berganza groped me, made inappropriate comments, touched me without consent, asked invasive questions & attempted to get me to his hotel room by saying he could get me a writing job at DC… SEVERAL TIMES. I've been telling people my stories for years.
— Molly McIsaac (@MollyMcIsaac) November 12, 2017
I’ve lost count of how many times I explicitly told DC editorial that I wouldn’t write for them because of Berganza. https://t.co/1v2Windg9Z
— Marjorie Liu (@marjoriemliu) November 13, 2017
DC Enterainment said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter’s Aaron Couch:
Warner Bros and DC Entertainment have terminated the employment of DC Comics Group Editor Eddie Berganza…
We are committed to eradicating harassment and ensuring that all employees, as well as our freelance community, are aware of our policies, are comfortable reporting any concerns and feel supported by our Company.
So why has it taken so many years for complaints about Berganza to be heard and answered? Former DC employee Heidi MacDonald, who worked at the company for a few years beginning in the late nineties, told BuzzFeed News that “there were so many weird and creepy attitudes about women that I had to put up a shield of 4 inches of lead.”
“I think it just reinforces this idea that superheroes are for boys, and comics are a place that women aren’t welcome,” she added. “Whether as readers or creators.”
This. Is. Not. Good. Enough.
Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.