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A new report from BuzzFeed chronicles complaints from three women who say a veteran DC Comics editor forced himself on them—and was allowed to keep his job.
Liz Gehrlein Marsham and Joan Hilty, both former employees of DC Comics, and a third woman who was trying to break into the industry, give strikingly similar accounts of incidents involving DC’s Eddie Berganza. In his 25-year career with the publisher, he’s overseen some of the company’s biggest comics titles, including Superman and Batman. He now works on Dark Nights: Metal.
Sexual harassment issues related to Berganza have long been something of an open secret in the comics industry, especially after the company demoted—but retained—Berganza after an incident at WonderCon in 2012. In the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and many other recent revelations of sexual abuse by powerful men, concerns about Berganza are again surfacing.
Marsham and Hilty told BuzzFeed that Berganza tried to forcibly kiss them in separate incidents in 2006 and the early 2000s, respectively. Hilty said she was able to pull away, but Marsham said Berganza forced his tongue into her mouth and attempted to grope her. Though they said they were shaken, the women didn’t initially report the incidents to HR, citing concerns about it damaging their careers in the notoriously hard-to-break-into comics industry where men dominate management roles.
But when it became known that Berganza was being considered for an executive editor role in 2010, both women and at least three other employees approached HR with their concerns, according to BuzzFeed. Hilty had been recently laid off by the company at the time.
Berganza was promoted anyway in October 2010. Then in March 2012, Berganza was in a hotel lobby at WonderCon when he allegedly forced himself on a then 27-year-old woman, sticking his tongue “down her throat.” The woman, who asked BuzzFeed to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, said she retreated in fear, but didn’t report the incident to DC Comics because she worried it would harm her and her partner’s careers.
Though the woman didn’t report the incident, the website Bleeding Cool published an account citing “dozens of witnesses” but identifying Berganza only as a “senior comic book figure.”
Soon after, DC Comics demoted Berganza, changing his title back to group editor. In an email obtained by BuzzFeed, Berganza told senior management at the company he was “really sorry for all this. You have my word, I will not allow this to happen again. The current situation have allowed me time to think, not to mention scared the hell out of me. There’s nothing that would make me want to do this again.”
Berganza and DC Comics wouldn’t comment on the report, but a DC Comics spokesperson told BuzzFeed, “DC and WB are unequivocally committed to cultivating a work environment of dignity and respect, 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.”
You can read the full report at BuzzFeed.
Sarah Weber is the former editor of Daily Dot’s Parsec section, where she wrote about geek culture. She previously worked as a reporter and editor at community newspapers in the Midwest and was recognized by the Ohio Associated Press for news reporting.