Nuance is what Comics calls for when a white guy does something really bad. To begin to form the basis of an opinion about each and every blatant awful act requires deep investigation, consideration, and care. You’ve gotta hear both sides, or so I’m told.

Here is what I know about Chris Sims. Under duress, he confessed to harassing a woman. The woman he harassed, Val D’Orazio, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder; she has described its effects, including financial strain, suicidal ideation, and professional hardship. It was such a blight on her health that it drove her out of comics blogging. These are indisputable facts.

Indisputable, except this narrative has been framed in two ways. A man, Chris Sims, has changed for the better, and there’s the sense that we should focus on that. D’Orazio has changed too, but for the worse. That’s not so uplifting. Not as easy. Not a point to rally behind as we move forward.

Indisputable, except that Comics calls for nuance. Despite Sims’ clear admission of guilt, some want to pry open this cold case and review with their own two eyes ancient blog posts, comments wars, and semi-relevant tweets. Cool, here’s thousands of words on someone’s personal impression of a bygone comics blogging milieu. This is how it always goes, this call for nuance, where even glossing some comics controversy requires sorting through so much ephemera that it quickly begins to sound like a whole lot of nothing. These petty piles of “evidence” begin to elide the unpleasant, indisputable truth: Chris Sims harassed a woman, and he made her very sick. Makes her sick, present tense, today, some five years after the fact.

D’Orazio had a big mouth and Sims had his burgeoning career. Claire Napier described how he built that career on his mistreatment of her, and I’d add that he’s now trying to build his persona as an ally on it too. Sims says all of this explicitly in his apology—offers it up like that’s a thing that makes sense, a thing that I’m supposed to understand. Sims found his voice in comics by harassing a woman, and now that he’s reformed he crows about his own sensitivity, which she helped him find, too. Good for him! (Bad for her.) Hey, thanks for sharing, Val. Your shitty fucking experience helped Sims become the compassionate man he is today.

Real progressives, we’re told, should rally behind Sims 2.0. “Chris is not the man he was when he directed his vitriol at Val D’Orazio,” says ComicsAlliance. Helpfully, Sims has offered a thoughtful analysis of his own campaign of harassment in the guise of two apologies. What a prince. Clearly he has come to realize that harassment is very, very bad. “Chris understands this now, and has understood it for years,” says CA. The point you see is not what Sims did; the point is what he now knows. Now that he understands, now that he’s better, now that he’s made a name for himself, some would-be hooligans, some riffraff, some GamerGate types, want to tear him down. To undo all the progress he’s made for all of us. For Comics!

Instead of an apology, ComicsAlliance went with frantic spin. Taking Sims’ lead, they chose to focus on the narrative of redemption. Along the way, CA invoked a cabal of anonymous haters who seek to sow discontent in the world of Progressive Comics, where all is well, clearly, la-la-la. “Someone was targeting Chris not out of a sense of justice, but because they wanted to destroy his success,” they wrote. Because, let’s face it, that’s the absolute worst crime you can commit in this town: to bring a good man low when he doesn’t deserve it.

Comics calls for nuance when a white guy does something really bad, especially when Comics knows that guy personally. Laura Hudson described factual reports of Sims’ harassment as an “anti-progressive campaign” trying to “actively dismantle progressive voices in comics.” Hudson is someone I admire, and it was uncomfortable to see her describe Val D’Orazio as a “skeleton” from Sims’ past to be wielded as a weapon against him, and against progressive voices. Who are the living breathing beings in that construction? Who isn’t? This is what nuance looks like in comics controversies: choosing to value one person’s humanity over someone else’s. Who dares to wave a bunch of old bones in the face of vital progress? Progressive Comics just wants to move forward. And what reasonable person doesn’t want that?

David Brothers wrote a powerful essay about cowardice in comics, explaining how, to white people, “racist” is an unspeakable slur. Accusations of racism and sexism are always given far more scrutiny and consideration than the offenses themselves. If you want to speak out, you’d better have your ducks in a row, because sure as shit someone will be there calling for “nuance.” Nuance is what Comics calls for when a white guy does something really bad. And that nuance is always and forever in the service of understanding him–the complex, well meaning white dude. To the rest of us it means antipathy, scrutiny, and straight-up hostility. There are consequences for whoever had the gall to speak up. It can ruin your day or your week. It can even make you physically ill. There is always a price.

Nuance dictates who receives the benefit of the doubt. Many, many comics controversies ago, when people accused Jason Karns of being a racist piece of shit, Tom Spurgeon explained he’d have to study Karns’ oeuvre before leveling such a serious accusation. Contrast those measured words with Spurgeon’s emotionally charged, intuitive “snap choice” to change his Twitter avatar to a racist caricature in the wake of Charlie Hebdo. I offer this example, not because Spurgeon is the worst or only offender along these lines by a long shot, but because it so plainly embodies a rampant attitude in Progressive Comics. It delineates what deserves careful consideration and who is most deserving of empathy. It is entirely oblivious to bias. It says, “I will think long and hard before I call someone a racist. And I will think very little, if it all, before I myself commit a racist act.”

Comics controversies have a short half-life. Time enough for everyone to write two or three angry tweets. Everyone cares and they CARE and they care really hard, and there’s very little time to absorb and reflect before another white guy does something really bad and there’s a renewed call for nuance, another pile of tweets to parse before we throw them into the void.

Here’s the thing: I fail to see the nuance in Sims’ story. He was a bad man, and now he’s a good one. Has he reformed, for real, deep in his heart? It’s entirely possible. I confess I don’t care.

Now that he’s one of the good guys, Sims is helping to lead the march forward for Progressive Comics, such as it is. Ever onward! That’s his story. But I’m more interested in the other side of the narrative, the one that belongs to D’Orazio. It’s with her experience—not Sims’ success—that the path to progress starts. Progress is not desperately pushing forward as though you’re running away from something. This is not Jurassic Park or a Cormac McCarthy novel where we’d better keep moving. Real progress sometimes requires standing still and taking stock.

So let’s take stock. A man bullied a woman. She’s still dealing with the ongoing implications of his bad behavior. It makes her sick. Years after the fact, the bully is finally dealing with the fallout. It makes him look bad—the worst thing that can happen to a man in this industry. And guess what? Making a man in this industry look bad is nearly impossible. They have nuance. It’s complicated.

I don’t question why white guys like Sims behave badly. I don’t give a hoot, and even if I did, I doubt I’d understand. Their rationale, if you can call it that, is entirely beside the point. Nuance is what Comics calls for when a white guy does something really bad, and it’s long been used to redirect negative attention. It ignores what is actually at stake.

I’m tired of hearing about Chris Sims. I don’t care about his reputation, or his heart, or his alleged victimization at the hands of some hater cabal. I don’t care about his success or his rehabilitation or his vision for the future. I care least of all about Progressive Comics. They are more than welcome to leave me behind.

I’m writing today because I care about the story of Val D’Orazio. In doing so I feel no sense of forward momentum. I know it won’t be long before I hear this story again.

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