Three comments on the Tony Harris kerfuffle

On November 14, 2012 · 7 Comments

(Warning: This post contains some content raged “PG,” and maybe even “PG-13,” including mentioning b**bs and a couple of uses of the F word. Also, in case any readers don’t know this word, “cosplay” means, basically, going to a convention dressed up as a character, usually a character from genre fiction. “Cosplayers” are those who “cosplay.”)

1) You’re embarrassing us, Tony.

Just for the record, as a professional comic book creator, a lifelong comics fan, and someone who attends comic book conventions, I am happy to be sharing a subculture with cosplayers. Cosplayers don’t have to prove they are “true nerds.” They don’t need admission to the club, because they’re already in it.

I’m also not embarrassed to be sharing my subculture with what Tony Harris calls “a LOT of average Comic Book Fans who either RARELY speak to, or NEVER speak to girls. Some Virgins, ALL unconfident when it comes to girls…” I don’t agree they’re the norm, but yeah, there are some guys like that at cons. They’ve got problems to overcome, but who doesn’t? Many of them are really nice, albeit socially clumsy.1

But do you know who I AM embarrassed to share my subculture with? Tony Harris. Because he wrote this.

Hey! Quasi-Pretty-NOT-Hot-Girl, you are more pathetic than the REAL Nerds, who YOU secretly think are REALLY PATHETIC. But we are onto you. Some of us are aware that you are ever so average on an everyday basis. But you have a couple of things going your way. You are willing to become almost completely Naked in public, and yer either skinny( Well, some or most of you, THINK you are ) or you have Big Boobies. Notice I didnt say GREAT Boobies? You are what I refer to as “CON-HOT”.

It is humiliating for me to read that and realize that I’m sharing a profession and a nerd culture with the author.

And unfortunately, Tony Harris doesn’t stand alone.

2) Which comic book culture do you want to be part of?

There’s the comic book culture in which women (and especially female cosplayers) are objects of suspicion.2 “What the hell are you doing here? Are you a real nerd or just pretending? Here, let me quiz you on Star Trek.” There’s the comic book culture in which a major artist posts in his public Facebook area that he finds most female cosplayers to be “quasi-Pretty-NOT-hot” and to have less than “great” “boobies,” and makes it clear that as a “rule” he considers most female cosplayers to be intruders in his space.

Or there’s the comic book culture in which we react to someone of either sex dressing up by saying “wow! You look really neat!” A culture that welcomes new people and assumes they belong there.

We can hang up a sign that says “Private, boys only, keep out!3 A culture in which only the hardiest women will show their faces, because being treated like a suspicious outsider simply isn’t fun.

Or we can hang up a sign that says “We love our toys, and maybe you will too! Come in and share them!” A culture in which cosplayers keep on attending cons and making them more colorful and interesting for everyone. A culture in which everyone who loves nerd culture – even if they don’t love it in the exact way Tony Harris believes is the One Correct Way – can feel welcome.

Why would any thinking person want to live in the former culture, when the latter culture is an option?

3) A bit of fisking.

In a follow up comment, Tony Harris wrote:

So I am a Misogynist? Why?

Oh, has this not been made clear? Well, then, let me explain.

I’m not going to say you’re a misogynist, because I don’t know you, and I’m sure there are sides to you other than the ugly side you showed us yesterday. But I will say that your rant was very misogynistic.

Your rant was misogynistic because of the over-the-top display of bitter fury towards women you disapprove of; because of the sneering at women’s bodies and breasts that you deem insufficiently “GREAT” for your refined tastes; and because it was yet another attempt by a male nerd to play gatekeeper and declare which women are and aren’t True Nerds.

Because I frown upon Posers who are sad, needy fakers who use up all my air at Cons?

They’re not “sad, needy fakes.” They’re people having a good time while at a comic book convention, and for some reason that makes you furious.

And the air? Not yours. Everyone gets a share. (Jesus Christ, Tony, get a fucking grip.)

Sorry, while you Cos”Play” Im actually at work. Thats my office. Fuck you.

Hey, Tony, that’s my office too. So, speaking as an officemate, can I beg you to knock it the fuck off? Those people you’re sneering at are customers. Without them, neither of us will make a living.

Sure, most of the cosplayers aren’t there to buy my comics (or yours). But most of everyone at a con isn’t there to buy my comic (or yours). There are approximately a billion zillion comics available to buy at a con, and most fans aren’t going to buy more than a handful. We set up “office” for the chance to sift through thousands of fans to find the tiny percent who are looking for our stuff.4

By the way, cosplay is one of the very few things at comic book cons that little kids can enjoy. That’s my future customer base, officemate, so please don’t dis something that’s actually making comic book conventions fun for them.

I actually dont hate women, I dont fear them either. Nor do I mistrust them. I do not portray or Objectify half naked women in my work. I never have. I have always been VERY vocal about my dislike of that practice, and that my view is and has been that T&A in comics is a Pox.

I don’t think I agree that T&A is a pox, but I think the way that T&A predominates in comics is a pox.5 So we’re not far apart on that.

More importantly, it’s great that you’re working to avoid misogyny in your comics. Really, it is. (I work at the same thing in my comics). I also think it’s great that you love and respect your mom, your wife, and your daughters, as I saw you mention in another Facebook comment. However, you seem to think that these things are inoculations – that because you’ve created some non-misogynistic comics, and you love the women in your life, that means that you’re immune from ever saying anything misogynistic, and anyone criticizing your words for sexism must be wrong.

That’s not how it works, dude.

If you write a post saying that five times five is ten, then that’s wrong. And if a dozen people point out to you that “5×5=10” is wrong, it makes no sense to defend it by saying “but look at all these other times when I’ve done the math correctly!” Yes, it’s great that you did the math correctly all those other times. But that doesn’t magically mean that you didn’t mess up this time.

It would be better if you worked on understanding why everyone’s saying you screwed up, and learning not to screw up that way again, rather than just going on and on about how it’s completely unfair of us to say that “5×5=10” is wrong, don’t we even remember that time you said four times six is twenty-four?


Just saw this comic drawn by sailorswayze on tumblr, and couldn’t resist including it here:

UPDATE 2: John Scalzi has an explanation for this bizarre phenomenon.


  1. I don’t deny, by the way, that there are some guys at cons who are really shy and socially clumsy, and who are also mean, misogynistic, and rude. But the problem there isn’t the shyness or clumsiness, it’s the other stuff. []
  2. Cartoonist Colleen Doran tweeted, “Those kitty cat ears may be the end of comic book culture as we know it. Please keep wearing them. Thank you.” []
  3. As comics writer Gail Simone tweeted, “Remember, kids, it’s very important that we do everything possible to make sure new people don’t try to become part our medium/hobby.” []
  4. But what about cosplayers who just don’t buy comics at all? Well, so what? Some action figure collectors go to cons for the action figures, and don’t have much interest in comics. Oddly, no one questions their interest in comics, or their right to share the air. Because they’re mostly men. []
  5. By the way, why are there so many T&A posters featuring zombies at comic cons? I know a lot of artists like drawing both boobs, and rotting corpses, and apparently they figure that drawing both at once will be twice the fun. But, speaking as a con-goer, it’s just gross. []

7 Responses to “Three comments on the Tony Harris kerfuffle”

  1. L. Walker says:

    Let me preface this by saying I agree with your post in just about every way possible. I love cosplayers and I think costumed attendance is something to be encouraged.

    However, I am reminded of a SDCC attendee from about ten or fifteen years ago. Cosplayer isn’t the right word for this woman really. She was not wearing a costume, but instead just two crosses of electric tape over her nipples, high heels, and leather booty shorts. Fine. I don’t really care, though I have some concern about driving away some parents of younger children, but it’s not for me to police. If that’s going to be a topic, there’s quite a bit on display more controversial than what I describe every month in the average issue of Previews…

    Anyway, after she had wandered by on several occasions, someone at our booth finally asked her about her “costume”. Her explanation (and I am not exaggerating here): “I’m just doing this to show these nerds what they can never have.”

    She wasn’t a comics reader. She wasn’t a fan. She wasn’t there for any other reason than (by her own frank admission) to display her self perceived superiority.

    I think that attitude is inappropriate. I don’t care if it’s a male or a female or a comic reader or a non-comics reader. It’s inappropriate and it does exist – in a minority of attendees. I give the benefit of the doubt that this sort of person is at the heart of the Tony Harris rant.

    That said, I’d still not close the door to anyone. Even someone who attends a convention for the worst of reasons is A: Paying to get in. And B: Might find something they like.

    • I don’t think it’s fair to turn anyone away at a convention, even if they are the one-in-a-million individual you had the misfortune to meet, based on their poor attitude to other people. As you describe it, this woman doesn’t sound like a very nice person. There are a lot of not-very-nice people who go to conventions for really crummy or petty reasons (to gawk at female cosplayers, for example). Some of them spend money. Others don’t, but hey, the air is free, so how do I suffer by their presence?

      Or, here’s another thing to consider. What if this woman was lying? What if she’s not who she seems to be, but just gets defensive when she has recognized a culture that might have trouble accepting her? Is that likely? I can’t say. But if it’s even a possibility (and it is), then the worst thing other convention-goers can do is to hurl a load of nerd-clique misogyny at her. We who love comics will never win her over to our side (the in-it-for-the-comics side) with that attitude. Comics needs ALLIES, not enemies.

      • L. Walker says:

        Well, yes. I did specifically say I would not close the door to anyone.

        This woman did not appear to be defensive. She seemed perfectly comfortable with self expression (in all it’s myriad forms). There’s really no need to search for any hidden meaning behind her words. She chose them, and if they represent her unfairly that is on her.

        That said, nowhere am I endorsing hurling any form of hostility at anyone. I give the benefit of the doubt that, at the heart of the Tony Harris rant is a genuinely frustrating minority of men and women. Let me be clear: I know these people are in the vast minority – but they do exist. In any culture or subculture or scene or any such thing that attracts large amounts of people, odds are a small percentage of them will be frustrating assholes.

        But just because I can see a tiny speck of the possible source of Tony Harris frustration, does not mean I agree with his actions.

  2. Amber says:

    Thank you, Barry! Excellent, brilliant post!

  3. Aabra Jaggard says:

    Yeah, thanks, Barry.

  4. Chava P says:

    Thank you, Barry. I wonder what Tony Harris would say to me. I’m married with 3 kids. Reading your comics and “becoming Mirka” by doing cosplay was one of the most fun, revelatory experiences I’ve had in a long time. When I attended Comic Con and saw people whose costumes I did not recognize or understand, I thought it’s nice that they had the nerve to express themselves and be part of the fun. That it why I love Hereville, Yes, it is your livelihood, but there’s an obvious joy and sense of fun that is evident.

    • Barry says:

      Aw, thanks Chava! I really loved seeing your Mirka cosplay, and I’m glad you enjoyed it too. And yes, doing Hereville is joyful for me.

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