I don't often inject negative commentary on my blog, but today I feel like doing so.
I’ll avoid weighing too deeply into the details since I have no dog in the hunt other than being a voyeur who is rather shocked at the sheer childishness of one of the players in this nonsense—nonsense that none of us should have ever even been aware of. But one party had to jump out there onto the social media playground and start bullying the other one. The story I’m about to present is true but the names have been changed to protect the innocent and to afford this post plausible deniability as satire.
MOE VON ROYSTER is a white male comic book legend (I mention his ethnicity and sex because it becomes somewhat relevant). He is an artist and a writer with 50+ years of experience in the comics and publishing industry. He has worked for all the major publishers at various times and is well-known for pushing boundaries in his work and is an entertaining raconteur at public appearances. His work incorporates a level of sexual and violence graphicness that you did not often see in creators who were known for mainstream comics work in the 80s. However, as the business itself kind of caught up to him in terms of mainstream sexuality and violence, he experienced some modest level of decline in popularity and opportunity within the business, but not any more so than most other creators of his generation. Comics are notoriously generational in that sense in that the publishers themselves are always chasing the next new superstar creator and will rather harshly toss aside older creators without a second thought.
Royster notably has always been smart enough and creative enough to find new avenues for getting his work out there. His work ethic cannot be criticized, and the quality of his work is technically well-done always. Whether the content resonates with the primary comics-buying customers is another story. Maintaining relevancy as one ages has always been a struggle in this industry. Royster’s work has become increasingly niched in the markets that he appeals to. And while I understand pushing the edges of what is considered appropriate can certainly be a way of drawing media attention, I do not have much sympathy for those who do so and then cry “foul” when they get the negative attention that they were so clearly seeking. And this is where the story begins.
In 2017, Royster was creating and publishing through a large publisher known for letting creators have more creative freedom than most mainstream publishers. Assuming his usual role of provocateur, he created a series called THE FRENZIED STATES OF DELIRIUM which took his usual jaded politically and socially charged approach to telling a brutal satire about an America completely torn apart by terrorism (read: Muslim) and then feigned surprise and hurt when the publisher pulled one of the issues from circulation after complaints.
What were the complaints about? A cover that graphically depicted a dead, brown-skinned man hanging with his pants down around his ankles and his genitals bloody from being cut off. The corpse hangs from a neon sign which says: “Free Happy Ending With Any Homestyle Meal.” As a professional, when called on it by the publisher he provided a less provocative cover so that the issue could be recirculated.
The complaints; however, as happens frequently in the social media age, grew into a chorus online, and yes, some became quite vocal in their attempts to “cancel” Royster and his works. In his anger about his public critics within the industry at the time, Royster apparently took names and logged them all into his little black book of grudges never to interact or work with ever again. Which is his right. It is also his right to lump them all into his grudge book equally as if they all equally tried to murder his dog in front of him. One unfortunate person who happened to get added to the grudge book was a younger and less experienced comic book writer who happens to be a white female.
This is where WENDY GARFUNKEL enters the story.
Garfunkel, known for her witty scripts. She fosters a reputation for positivity through her strong social media presence which I'm sure helps her stay relevant with other pros and with fans. She reacted to a query about the Royster cover that got recalled by the publisher with a single-word tweet: “Repulsive.”
She didn’t write a column about it. She didn’t have public conversations about it. She didn’t sign petitions to get Royster black-balled in the industry. She simply reacted to the image of a hanged brown-skinned man with his genitals cut off with the word “Repulsive.”
Fast-forward to January 2024.
Royster pops onto his Facebook page to say that someone “purporting to be Wendy Garfunkel” has sent him a friend request. To which he guffaws about it and mocks her. This brings about the usual chorus of supportive and copycat guffaws and mockeries from his fan base in the comments because as the Trump era has made abundantly clear, once the celebrity bully starts a-bullyin’ then his fans are gonna feel like it’s their turn to join in like fawning boot-licking manager, Paul Heyman, following 2 steps behind Roman Reigns on the WWE.
And, as one would expect on Facebook, Garfunkel then got asked by some of her fans about whether it was really her who sent that friend request. Remember, nobody else in the entire world would have known about the friend request had not Royster made it public with a screenshot and accompanying mockery (yes, I'm over-using the word, but it's what it is). Eventually Garfunkel responded with an explanation. Yes, she had sent the friend request. Her reason for sending the friend request was to reach out and hopefully open the door for communication so that the two of them could talk about what happened back in 2017 and maybe work it out. She also asked everyone to not keep going on about it because the last thing she wanted was a stupid “feud” within professionals in this business. But she did clarify that her thinking for sending the friend request was predicated on a couple of things: (1) she was attempting to prevent involving others in it and keeping the entire thing privately between just them, and (2) if she had just sent a message, he probably wouldn’t have seen it because you have to be friends with someone for the message to go through to their main inbox and she didn’t know whether he would see the message.
This explanation was received with derision by Royster and his hooting congress of super-fans. But Garfunkel’s response was to express disappointment, attempted to move along and requested others do so as well.
So, for weeks it appeared the entire exchange had disappeared into the ether of past forgotten social feuds. Royster, however, made it clear that it was not forgotten. In fact, he has been quietly obsessing over it for the last month. A few days ago, he published a blogpost that might very well be one of the most embarrassing examples I've seen of narcissistic personality disorder on parade for the world to see.
Published on his Substack, Royster took 2600+ words to exclaim as a badge of honor his pride at holding grudges like a pitbull holds onto a raw steak. He writes: “Call it a character flaw should you so choose, but I hold a grudge, and firmly, certainly when there’s been no reasonable cause to release that grip.
Forgiveness, in my world, must be earned. There is a vast chasm between an apology and an amends, neither of which, I might add, were tendered or forthcoming with all this ‘bygones be bygones’ bullshit.”
I will remind the reader, this is over a single tweet from 7 years ago that said one word: “Repulsive.” And this is an objectively true description of the cover. Royster intentionally designed and drew a repulsive cover for the sole purpose of arousing people’s ire and then retreated into the protective cave of “free speech” when the public’s ire was aroused.
Also, it is fine to say that “forgiveness must be earned” but to deny the other person the very opportunity to even try (and mocking their attempt) is the dividing line between what constitutes a character flaw and what constitutes simply being an asshole.
What follows is his INTERPRETATION of what her motivation and meaning was behind using the word “repulsive.” Rather than attempting to engage in a private conversation and actually asking her what she meant by it, he is willing to accept his own mind-reading as absolute fact. Indisputable. Immutable.
He takes apart her use of the word “rift” when referring to their conflict here by predicating it all on his personal and connotative definition of what a “rift” means. Then he calls her a “hyena” then somehow recontextualizes her use of the single word “repulsive” as a “series of smears, of such busybodied opportunistic shittiness.”
Then he pronounces himself Moe Von Royster . . . “a prince, and not to be fucked with.”
To which, I will just say that watching a 73 year-old acting this
childish and publicly parading such an easily fractured ego would be shocking if I had not spent the last 8 years or so watching the ex-host of THE APPRENTICE daily sucking all media attention to stroke
his bruised and swollen
And I cannot begin to effectively convey my unbounded
disappointment joy at
typing these last three words.
Pathetic and embarrassing.