Bold Talk:Mark Millar and the John Vee Paradox.

Published on September 14th, 2012

The opinions expressed in this column are strictly those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect those of Comic Impact, its owners, or its staff.

(Trigger Warning for discussion of stalking, online harassment, and rape.)

Over the past couple of weeks, a miserable little man got what he’s always wanted – attention.

A troll going by the name “John Vee” – amongst numerous other aliases – has spent the past couple of years making a hobby of harassing female comic creators and bloggers via message boards, Twitter, and direct emails, using proxy IPs to avoid being permanently blocked from the forums and accounts where he unleashed his nasty misogynistic bile.

I’m not going to bother repeating any of his crap here, as that would be exactly what he wants; suffice it to say, however, that most of his shtick referenced – in some form or another – acts of sexual violence.

Unfortunately for “John”, he became conspicuous enough to draw the ire of popular comic book creator Mark Millar, who then utilized his considerable influence and the help of his online fan base to track John down to a real-world location and initiate legal action against him.

The fact that Mark went out of his way to make this guy’s threats, stalking, and harassment a matter of public knowledge, and to take steps to ensure they stop, have helped to shine a brighter light on the ugly, all-too-common phenomenon of vicious, relentless online harassment by smugly anonymous perpetrators. Perhaps the prospect of facing public exposure of their true identities, as well as criminal persecution, will make these trolls stop and reconsider; we can only hope.

However –

I think that it could be an equally great thing if Mr. Millar would consider using the same energy and influence that he committed to the exposure of “John Vee” to find plot devices – or alternate narrative methods – that can substitute for use of rape scenarios in his own work.

I am NOT equating Mark Millar with “John Vee”; nor am I suggesting that Mark Millar is somehow responsible for this troll’s actions, or the actions of truly tragic numbers of like-minded scumbags lurking about in all online community forums.

I have always been – I still am – vehemently opposed to censorship.

But while I have been reading Millar’s comics for a long time – some I’ve loved, some I’ve hated, some that have left me indifferent – the truth is that many of them, a lot of them, incorporate the threat or execution of rape or some other form of sexual violence.

And I mean A LOT.

Are creators who include sexual violence in their work responsible for the actions of people who stalk and threaten women on the internet? Did they cause the behavior of people who wield the word “rape” like a cudgel, using it to intimidate another for the sin of having an opinion, a hobby, or being a particular gender? No.

But I do truly believe that the casual ease and frequency with which Mr. Millar includes sexually violent scenes and mentions of rape in his work does contribute to a culture. When rape and sexual violence toward either gender are used in narrative as easy and effective ways to generate revulsion towards villains, or to create shock, I believe that we become desensitized. We become more jaded about, and more dismissive of, threats or acts of rape and harassment that exist now. Here. In real life.

I cannot speak for any of the women “John Vee” threatened, stalked and harassed; nor would I ever dare to. I’ve never been on the receiving end of the malicious, unrelenting, and systematic pattern of hateful behavior this guy exhibited.

But it is my opinion that it is intellectually and emotionally dishonest for Mr. Millar to be simultaneously horrified at the actions of a “John Vee” and insistent that the movie adaptation of Kick-Ass II will absolutely feature the gang-rape scene he wrote in the book.

No, the one doesn’t cause the other; but behaving as though the two scenarios exist in the same culture and yet are utterly disconnected is simply untrue.

Travis Holyfield
travis@comicimpact.com

“I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man.”