Emerald City Comicon sued for not paying ‘volunteers’

Jerry Brooks is initiating a class action suit against Emerald City Comicon. He alleges the convention broke Washington state employment laws. They used volunteers to do tasks normally performed by paid employees. The convention referred to these volunteers as “minions.”

Emerald City Comicon did not pay minions.
Emerald City Comicon sued for not paying 'volunteers' - Bent CornerLegally, they were not in a position where they could take advantage of an unpaid volunteer labor force. They are not a non-profit organization. If they applied for and were granted non-profit status from the IRS, they could have used volunteers as workers.

They didn’t do that.

Emerald City Comicon is now owned by ReedPop. ReedPop paid Emerald City Comicon minions at this year’s event.

I think paying volunteers for the 2106 event is troublesome for the defendants. If Emerald City Comicon paid 2016 minions for the work they performed, why didn’t they pay their earlier minion workforce? I also have to think at least some of the minions paid in 2016 were minions in past conventions doing the same duties.

Something else that may be trouble for the defendants is the plaintiff. There’s a Linkedin profile for a Jerry Brooks who listed volunteer work for Emerald City Comicon, specifically, that he supervised over 100 volunteers. If this is the same Jerry Brooks who filed the lawsuit, he may have detailed records of the work done by the minions.

In retrospect, I wonder if the creators of the con wish they called their employees something other than “minions.” I doubt that term would go over real well in a courtroom. It’s probably related to the animated movie Despicable Me, but it sounds extremely pejorative. This is especially true if you’ve never watched Despicable Me. 

Brianna Wu had blogger removed from RavenCon panel for taking her picture

RavenCon, a science fiction and fantasy convention, is taking place this weekend in Richmond, Virginia. One of the guests is Brianna Wu, iPhone game developer and vocal critic of GamerGate, the leaderless consumer revolt against unethical behavior in the video games industry. Wu claims GamerGate is a hate group and that she has received over 80 death threats from members of GamerGate.

That’s what she claims.

Brianna Wu conducted a panel Friday night at RavenCon called GamerGate 101. Before the panel officially began, she ordered event organizers to remove a prominent GamerGate blogger, Ethan Ralph of The Ralph Retort, from the panel. The reason? Because she discovered that he had taken her photo and posted it to Twitter.

She ordered convention organizers to remove him from the GamerGate 101 panel audience and to also have him removed from the convention. The organizers removed him from the panel, but not the convention. One of the organizers then announced to the remaining guests that there would be no recording or pictures taken during the GamerGate 101 panel.

I’ve never heard of photos not being allowed during a panel at a convention. I have taken photos at convention panels many times. The opportunity to take photos has always been one of the reasons I like to go to comic book and science fiction conventions.

If this no-photo rule was in place for the GamerGate 101 panel, why wasn’t it announced ahead of time?

RavenCon has no rules against taking photos. In fact, they have a rule that states they may use photos and other media recordings taken at RavenCon:



The rule seems to imply that attendees are more than welcome to take photographs at RavenCon. If the GamerGate 101 panel was under different rules, rules different from everywhere else within the confines of RavenCon, than they owed it to everyone involved to make this rule known.

I can understand that Brianna Wu doesn’t like Ethan Ralph. I totally get that. He’s been very critical of her and her positions on his blog. One might argue that he has been as critical of her as she has been about GamerGate. That doesn’t mean she should have the right to have him removed from a panel. Having someone removed from a panel because you don’t like things they have said, seems inconsistent with free speech. If I didn’t know better, I’d think Brianna Wu doesn’t believe Ethan Ralph has the right to express his views and opinions on his blog.

Instead of kicking Ethan Ralph out of the panel, imagine how much more educational the GamerGate 101 panel would have been if Brianna Wu had invited him to take part. If the goal was to educate the audience on GamerGate, something the name of the panel certainly implied, what better way than to have one of the more prominent GamerGate bloggers, someone who even lives there in Richmond, share his views and opinions too?

What a wasted opportunity.

Ethan Ralph has posted a video of the incident on YouTube.  Check it out if this is something you’d like to see.

Scott Lobdell apologizes for sexually harassing MariNaomi

Cartoonist MariNaomi wrote about an awful experience while attending a panel at a recent comic convention. She detailed how a then-unnamed comic book professional harassed her throughout the panel. He made lewd and inappropriate comments to her and about her.

I found it uncomfortable to read, both because of the actions of the harasser and because of the way MariNaomi felt after the panel.

The unnamed harasser now has a name, it’s comic book writer Scott Lobdell.

Scott Lobdell issues a fake apology

Scott Lobdell apologizes for sexually harassing MariNaomi - Rick Rottman
Scott Lobdell

Lobdell revealed this fact by writing an open apology to MariNaomi and her husband.

The apology in its entirety:

First and foremost and without any conditions I would like to formally and publicly apologize for offending a fellow comic book creator.

I am also sorry because if I had realized my failed attempt at humor had offended MariNaomi or her husband in the moment that I made those statements, I would have certainly apologized in then and not have left her to feel victimized in the hours and days that followed.

I am particularly saddened because I was completely blown away by not only her talent as both a writer and artist, but more importantly by the fact she was using her talent to speak so openly and freely about her own life experiences and how they informed the artist that she is today. As someone who has only ever written super heroes, I marvel at the type of courage it takes for someone to put their whole life out on paper (or blogs) for the world to see.

Finally I am sorry that my presence on the panel caused her experience to be anything other than a celebration of her work. MariNaomi deserved more than that.

This “apology” doesn’t really mesh with the facts laid out in MariNaomi’s essay. She wrote that Lobdell apologized to her husband immediately after the panel.

For those keeping score at home, Lobdell has so far apologized to MariNaomi once and to her husband, twice.

It wasn’t Lobdell’s presence that MariNaomi had a problem with. It was his repeated inappropriate comments. Lobdell was acting like a jerk, in public, to a woman he didn’t know. His comments were of an overtly sexual way. MariNaomi did not encourage these comments. She also did not welcome them.

In conclusion

Scott Lobdell sounds like an asshole. If comic convention organizers with an anti-harassment policy invite him to their event, then they are hypocrites. Guys like Lobdell are the reason cons have anti-harassment policies.

DragonCon finally cuts ties with accused child predator Ed Kramer

Remember when organizers of DragonCon, the popular science fiction and fantasy convention held every Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, said that they couldn’t sever ties with accused sexual molester of young boys Edward Kramer? Yeah, about that…

From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Five of six founding members of the company said in a statement Monday that they’d merged the old company, DragonCon/ACE, into a new one, Dragon Con, Inc. — giving Kramer cash for his shares.

Kramer is facing child-molestation charges in Gwinnett County. He was extradited from Connecticut where he faced similar charges.

Though Kramer was no longer responsible for running the convention, he continued to earn dividends from its proceeds due to his 34 percent ownership.

According to a statement by the new company, “Edward Kramer, who has not had any role in managing or organizing the convention since 2000, was offered cash for his shares in the old company. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.”

So for the record, they were able to somehow create a new company to run the convention and keep Kramer out of it. If only this remedy had been thought of earlier. Oh, that’s right, it was.

This is what they said earlier this year on Facebook:

The idea proposed of dissolving the company and reincorporating has been thoroughly investigated and is not possible at this point. Legally, we can’t just take away his shares. We are unfortunately limited in our options and responses as we remain in active litigation.

So there you go, what was once impossible is now possible. Good for DragonCon and good for the people who enjoy attending, but don’t want their money going to a sexual deviant who uses the money to avoid justice.

Now that organizers of DragonCon have removed Kramer from their coffers, maybe now they can focus on coming up with a good way of apologizing to author Nancy A. Collins, the organizer of the DragonCon boycott.

She was right, they were wrong. The organizers of DragonCon owe her an apology, and the rest of us owe her our thanks.

Update: Now that DragonCon has finally done the right thing, Nancy A. Collins has called off the boycott.

New York Comic Con blames overcrowding on counterfeit badges

New York Comic Con counterfeit badges
The New York Comic Con

ICv2 interviewed ReedPop Group Vice President Lance Fensterman about this year’s comic book convention in New York City, the 2012 New York Comic Con. One of the things discussed in the interview was the crowds.

Since the New York Comic Con’s first year, in 2006, the convention has been plagued with an overcrowding problem. People with pre-paid tickets are forced to stand outside in long lines, unable to enter the Javits Center. In years past, the overcrowding problem was caused by ReedPOP selling too many tickets. This year, this wasn’t the problem. Instead, the overcrowding was blamed on counterfeit badges.

Lance Fensterman told ICv2:

I was very comfortable with the number of tickets I allowed to be sold. I think we have some issues around counterfeiting of badges. We confiscated a lot of counterfeited badges, and I think there are probably more out there. That’s a function of selling out faster and earlier than we ever have that we have to address.

Do I think it was too crowded on Saturday and Sunday? Probably. Do I think that’s a function of paying customers? No I don’t.

You have to watch out for counterfeit comic book convention badges

Counterfeit badges? Really? It’s 2012 and tickets or badges with barcodes are the norm. Don’t badges for the New York Comic Con have barcodes? Buy a ticket to any major or even minor sporting event, whether you purchase it online or offline, and it’s going to have a barcode. The ticket-taker scans your ticket with their handheld reader when you enter. If the ticket is legit, you’re allowed to enter. It’s been this way for so long that I honestly can’t remember a time when it wasn’t.

If counterfeit badges were indeed a problem this year, I blame ReedPop Group for allowing it to happen. They evidently designed a badge system that was too easily duplicated. Who’s fault is that, the people who purchased the fake badges or the organization that designed them?

The more likely cause of overcrowding was that they simply sold too many badges. Like they’ve done before and they will probably do in the future.

It’s what they do.