Just a week after Archie Comics Co-CEO Jonathan Goldwater sued to remove Nancy Silberkleit as a director and co-CEO, a New York judge has barred her from entering the company’s offices, or performing any work for the 73-year-old publisher.
The temporary restraining order was issued by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich in response to charges that Silberkleit ignored a Nov. 28 injunction prohibiting her from “harassing, yelling at or abusing” anyone at Archie’s headquarters or having any contact with staff and vendors regarding matters other than those required by her employment contract.
Goldwater’s lawsuit insists “the ink was barely dry” on Kornreich’s previous order when Silberkleit violated it by having unnecessary contact with staff. According to the New York Daily News, Silberkleit acknowledged under oath Tuesday that she contacted freelance writers about participating in an anti-bullying comic announced last week.
“I thought it was a good idea to do a book about bullying, because I’m right here in the midst of it myself,” she testified. “I’m the one being harassed and abused here.”
Issuing the new order ahead of a Feb. 2 contempt hearing, Kornreich didn’t mince words: “She is not to do anything for Archie Comics Productions.”
Archie Comics Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit claims the company’s lawsuit against her is merely “a thinly veneered attempt to smear my name and gain complete corporate control” for her counterpart Jon Goldwater.
The lawsuit, filed early last month, accuses Silberkleit of bullying and sexually harassing employees, and sought to bar her from the publisher’s Mamaroneck, N.Y., headquarters and from representing the company at Comic-Con International. A judge allowed her to return to work and attend the San Diego convention, but she’s not permitted to talk to vendors.
According to Archie, Silberklet’s “offensive” behavior dates back to 2009, when she stepped into the co-CEO role following the death of her husband Michael Silberkleit, son of co-founder Louis Silberkleit. In one incident, she allegedly interrupted a meeting and pointed to each of the four men in the room, shouting “PENIS, PENIS, PENIS, PENIS.” In another, she reportedly complained that her “balls hurt.” Another employee asserts he heard Silberkleit say, “All you penises think you can run me out.”
The company contends it hired an outside firm to investigate employee allegations of Silberkleit’s actions, and was advised to cut ties with her.
However, The Journal News reports that Silberkleit denies the allegations and claims that Goldwater, son of Archie Comics co-founder John L. Goldwater, is a chauvinist who’s attempting to drive her out of the company.
“He has called me ‘stupid,’ a ‘moron,’ and ‘despicable,’” the former art teacher said in an affidavit filed last week. “In the presence of others he has told me to ‘shut up’ and ‘why can’t you be sweet, nice and quiet like a lady?’ ”
She accuses Goldwater of making corporate decisions without her, canceling a children’s literacy tour without telling her, and turning employees against her. “Mr. Goldwater long ago and repeatedly has told some employees and also people within the industry that he would get rid of me one way or the other,” Silberkleit wrote.
Her attorney has filed a motion to dismiss the company’s lawsuit. A hearing is set for Aug. 16 in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan.
It may have seemed daring for Archie Comics to introduce their first openly gay character, Kevin Keller, in Veronica #202 last year, but it’s a move that has paid off handsomely. Not only did the move draw a lot of attention to the publisher, but Kevin himself has proved to be a popular character, and his creator, Dan Parent, has been fleshing out his personality and backstory in a four-part miniseries that debuted last month. Today, the New York Times revealed that Kevin will get his own series next year, and readers will get some glimpses of the grown-up Kevin in the Life With Archie magazine, which features dual storylines in which Archie marries Veronica and Betty, respectively. And yes, Archie co-CEO Jon Goldwater says, they are going there: Kevin will get married in early 2012.
Parent has already taken on another controversial topic in the current miniseries, which reveals that Kevin’s father is in the military and Kevin himself would like to serve someday. The comic also tackles homophobia head-on but in a very Archie kind of way, by having the kids who are taunting Kevin turn out to be friends from his old school who were just trying to get a rise out of his Riverdale buddies. These new friends are a refreshing addition to the cast, and hopefully they will stick around for a while. Parent says that Kevin will be class president in the new series, but he adds, ” “Even the most popular kids are not popular with everybody. There’s some adversity he’ll have to deal with.”
As for controversy, Goldwater says it’s a non-issue: “Out of all the people who subscribe to the Archie books, we only had seven total cancellations,” he told the Times.
Publishing | May marked the worst month of the year for the direct market since January as sales of comic books and graphic novels fell 11.21 percent versus May 2010. Chart watcher John Jackson Miller chalks up the decline to a combination of retailers ordering more Free Comic Book Day titles than “for-profit” books and publishers’ summer events heating up a little later this year. Marvel led Diamond Comic Distributors’ list of top comics for the month with Fear Itself #2, followed by the first issue of DC’s Flashpoint. Avatar topped the graphic novel chart with Crossed 3D, Vol. 1. [The Comichron]
Legal | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has joined a coalition that includes booksellers, media companies and the ACLU of Utah in seeking to permanently stop enforcement of a 2005 Utah statute that would regulate Internet speech that some consider “harmful to minors,” including works of art, graphic novels, information about sexual health and the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth. The law has not gone into effect because Utah consented to a temporary injunction until the case can be decided. [press release]
Comic strips | In what Michael Cavna so accurately describes as “a seismic shift” for the world of newspaper syndication, United Media has announced it will outsource all editorial, production, sales, marketing and distribution functions for its 150 comics and other features to Kansas City-based Universal Uclick. (Tom Spurgeon likens the move to Marvel outsourcing all of its titles to DC Comics.) The transition begins immediately, and is expected to be complete by June 1. United Media’s stable of strips include Get Fuzzy, Pearls Before Swine, Rose Is Rose and Marmaduke. Universal Uclick’s lineup includes Doonesbury, Non Sequitur, Garfield, For Better or For Worse and the recently added Peanuts and Dilbert. [Comic Riffs]
Passings | Anant Pai, who’s credited with launching India’s comic industry in the 1960s with his series Amar Chitra Katha (Immortal Picture Stories), died Thursday of a heart attack. He was 81. Affectionately known by his fans as “Uncle Pai,” he also created the children’s series Tinkle and had spent the past three years working on Glimpses of Glory, which chronicles 40 defining moments from Indian history. After falling and fracturing his foot, Pai underwent surgery of Saturday, which prevented him from attending the first Indian Comic Con, where he was to be given a lifetime achievement award. [The Associated Press, India Real Time]
Broadway | Michael Coehl, lead producer of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, has responded to the thrashing the $65-million production received this week from some of the country’s top theater critics. The Julie Taymor-directed show, which finally opens on March 15, was labeled by The New York Times and The Washington post as one of the worst musicals in Broadway history. “Any of the people who review the show and say it has no redeeming value are just not legitimate reviewers, period,” Coehl told Entertainment Weekly. [PopWatch]
Publishing | Wizard World CEO Gareb Shamus gives another interview about the abrupt closing of Wizard and ToyFare magazines, his expanding stable of regional conventions, plans for a weekly online magazine, and the state of the industry: “The market’s changed. When I started 20 years ago, I was pioneering in the publishing world in terms of creating a product that got people excited about being involved in the comic book and toy and other markets, and we could do a lot of really cool and innovative things. Unfortunately right now being involved in the print world is very stifling, in terms of being able to leverage your content and your media and your access to the world out there.” Meanwhile, Tom Spurgeon and Martin Wisse comment on Shamus’ previous interview, which is pretty much the same as the new one. [ICv2.com]