Ed Piskor, 1982-2024
April 1, 2024 10:47 PM   Subscribe

[CW: Suicide, exploitation] Cartoonist Ed Piskor, creator of Hip Hop Family Tree and co-host of comics YouTube channel Cartoonist Kayfabe, was accused last week of grooming by a cartoonist who posted screenshots of a conversation she had with Piskor when she was 17 and he was 38. Two women soon came forward with their own experiences. This morning Piskor posted a response on his Facebook (Currently unavailable) denying any ill intent and expressing suicidal feelings. Shortly after, his family confirmed that he was dead. Ed Piskor was 41.

Piskor's early professional work was with Harvey Pekar, illustrating American Splendor strips as well as the books Macedonia (Co-written with Heather Roberson) and The Beats: A Graphic History.

Piskor's solo project, the hacker tale Wizzywig, brought him to the attention of venerable blog Boing Boing, where he serialized his look at the 'viral propagation of a culture', the Eisner-winning Hip Hop Family Tree.

Following the completion of Hip Hop Family Tree Piskor began Cartoonist Kayfabe with friend and fellow cartoonist Jim Rugg. What began as two friends flipping though and discussing issues of Wizard: The Guide To Comics and the bad old good old days of American comics in the early 1990s, CK quickly grew to include shop talk about craft and production, deep dives into cartoonists oeuvres, and interviews with many prominent creators.

As the channel grew in popularity, Piskor began work on X-Men: Grand Design, distilling decades of mutant continuity into a 250 page story. Piskor provided a 'director's commentary' for the first 12 pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

[CW for all links in following paragraph]

Piskor was a polarizing figure, accused by some for cultural appropriation in his work and speech and often criticized for talking shit about peers and adopting a 'bad boy' persona. His enthusiasm for outlaw comics, independent publications from the '80s and '90s that featured hardcore violence and sex inspired Red Room, a splattercore horror series that featured dark web snuff films. Piskor received more criticism after revealing a variant cover for an issue of Red Room that parodied Art Spiegelman's Maus. Jim Rugg, who had been providing variant covers that parodied several famous comics, took responsibility and apologized, as did Piskor and publisher Fantagraphics.

When reports of his behavior were made public, Piskor was at work on Switchblade Shorties, a daily strip about a gang of latchkey kids having spooky adventures.

Ed Piskor previously on MetaFilter
posted by Alvy Ampersand (52 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Note: If you or someone you care about is in crisis in the United States or Canada, please call the Crisis Lifeline at 988.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:51 PM on April 1 [11 favorites]

Thank you for making this post Alvy Ampersand. I don't really have anything else to say, except, how sad.
posted by JHarris at 12:06 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]

Ed was talented and flawed. He made some mistakes, more than we knew I guess. He followed them up with a worse one today, a final one. It's a messy legacy. Maybe in time the good he leaves will outweigh the bad. That's the best most of us can hope for, after all.

Sympathies and solidarity to the women affected, sympathies to Ed's family and friends. Sadness for everyone involved. Thanks for the post Alvy.

posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 12:34 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]

I wrote a long and angry comment, but don’t want to leave it here.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 12:40 AM on April 2 [16 favorites]

The public suicide note is absolutely monstrous, a last-ditch attempt to ruin the lives of his accusers and critics. (And it's working; the folks named in it are already getting huge waves of harassment from the worst people on the internet.)

He was clearly in despair, and i don't judge him for taking his own life, but i absolutely judge him for his vicious final act.
posted by adrienneleigh at 1:30 AM on April 2 [55 favorites]

Thanks for this post, Alvy. I enjoyed Piskor's work on X-Men: Grand Design and was shocked and upset, in stages, at all of this.

I (pre-emptively) urge Mefites not to share the suicide note if you come across it, and to not post it here. As adrienneleigh says, it's a hideous thing and doesn't need to be shared, for anyone's sake. I can't imagine what it must be like for the people named in it and what they must be dealing with right now, or his grieving family seeing the internet throw it around to win shitty little arguments.

Comicsgators are already gearing up to be disgusting about this. My thoughts go out to people working in comics who will have to live with the fallout of yet another round of victim blaming and misogyny.
posted by fight or flight at 3:02 AM on April 2 [12 favorites]

(Lest anyone think from the tone of my comment I'm excusing or minimizing the harm he's done, that's not my intent at all. The things he's accused of are gross and inappropriate at best, more so given the apparent age and power disparities. I wish he hadn't done them. I wish he hadn't chosen the exit he did, either. I just feel overwhelmed by death lately, suffused in it, and it's hard to be anything but sad and numb right now. Folks who are feeling anger have every right to be angry and to express it here and anywhere else, obviously. I guess it's a time when trying not to speak ill of the dead needs to give way to the right of victims to be heard and supported. I'm sorry if I offended anyone.)
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 3:46 AM on April 2 [12 favorites]

I've been grappling with this, not well. It's inspired a lot of heavy thinking in me. The one thing I am sure of is that the women involved in this situation are not to blame for the choices that this person made in his life, including his decision to end his life.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:57 AM on April 2 [14 favorites]

Ed was not a friend, although we had a great deal of friends in common. I did have a good conversation with him and Jim Rugg on the Sunday night of SPX in 2019.

It was already a rough few days and to have this conclusion ...

All of this is awful.
posted by edencosmic at 5:04 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]

The choices available to a white man with an established media platform and the choices available to a girl still in high school are very different. We know Piskor by the choices he made, and that absolutely tarnishes whatever good creative work he might have made. It's not hard to not be a creep.
posted by rikschell at 5:14 AM on April 2 [31 favorites]

I am not surprised Piskor turned out to be a creep. Like Warren Ellis, a white man constantly engaged in self satisfied attempts at edginess isn't generally engaged in a lot of introspection or thought about others' needs. Like Richard Kyanka, he has used his death to hurt the people who might have otherwise held him accoutable.

This final act of cruelty, selfishness, and ugliness is deeply infuriating and sad.

May God have mercy on his soul.
posted by The Manwich Horror at 5:35 AM on April 2 [8 favorites]

There have been two times in my life when I have read somebody's writing and it's converted me from being "on their side" in terms of thinking they were beleaguered or facing outsized criticism for their actions, to thinking they were entirely in the wrong and thinking far less of them than if they'd never written anything at all: M Doughty's Book of Drugs and Ed Piskor's suicide note.

Don't read it, folks. I regret doing it. It did not lead me to any greater understanding of anything. It did not illuminate or clarify. It did not provide any wisdom or succour. It made me feel like a worse person for reading it.

I respect and appreciate Piskor's work, and fervently wish he'd chosen not to be a creep, or at the very least to have the self-reflection to examine his behaviour, own up to his shortcomings, do what he could to make reparations with those he'd harmed, and move forward.

But his last act was that of a peevish, vindictive, small man, so far into being the Main Character that he couldn't understand how this would leave him with far worse of a legacy than just being a real creep for a while and moving past it.

I'm sorry Piskor's gone; he was a talent. But there are a lot of very talented people out there, and I hope this makes room for new talent to rise without the toxicity.
posted by Shepherd at 5:40 AM on April 2 [22 favorites]

Never heard of the guy. Now I've heard of him, and what I'll associate with his name is profoundly negative. I guess that's what they mean by infamy.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:08 AM on April 2 [10 favorites]

The difference between the reaction to his suicide note here vs elsewhere on the internet is striking. Like many of you I read the note and saw someone who was spiteful and vindictive and not only refusing to admit any wrong but explicitly blaming his accusers for his death. I've seen so much reaction to the note elsewhere where it's instead read as some sort of vindication for Piskor - taking his counterarguments and excuses at face value despite the fact his accusers have screenshots.

I was a fan but had soured on Piskor over the past few years. On his youtube channel he did start to come across as a creep, up to the point I was surprised that Jim Rugg, who seemed like a pretty even keeled dude, was friends with him.

RIP but more importantly I wish peace to all of his victims who are now weathering the storm of Piskor's last assault on them
posted by thecjm at 6:11 AM on April 2 [9 favorites]

Straight up, this person was not sorry for what he did, obviously. He felt persecuted and was probably profoundly aware that he would now be destitute, a pariah who could not even get a loan; Mark Millar may have expressed sadness over his death, but would Mark Millar have hired him to draw his comics? I wouldn't bet on it. The letter was a suicide bomb. I am still stunned by it. I can't wrap my head around it, man. I feel so horrible for his victims.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:20 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]

I heard about this last night, via a friend who's much more into Western comics than I am. I've had Hip Hop Family Tree sitting on my "to read" pile for years, which I picked up after reading a few entries on Boing Boing. No way I'll be able to read more of it now. As my friend noted, there's just too much "ick" here. It's Alec Holowka all over again.
posted by May Kasahara at 6:26 AM on April 2 [5 favorites]

I'm especially feeling for Evan Dorkin right now, who is a) a former friend of Piskor, b) one of the critics singled out in Piskor's letter, and c) someone who came forward about his own suicide attempt a couple of years ago. Utterly horrible.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 6:56 AM on April 2 [19 favorites]

Like Warren Ellis, a white man constantly engaged in self satisfied attempts at edginess isn't generally engaged in a lot of introspection or thought about others' needs. Like Richard Kyanka, he has used his death to hurt the people who might have otherwise held him accoutable.

This is basically my take. I'd mostly liked what I'd seen of Piskor's work, mainly through the serialization of Hip Hop Family Tree on Boing Boing; it may have been the last thing about that site that kept me coming back on a regular basis, in fact. At the very least, I know more about the early days of hip hop than before. But I didn't like it enough to buy it; one of the things that I disliked about it was his shitty treatment of Rick Rubin--I can't put my finger on what exactly made me think that Piskor's resentment of Rubin was due to the latter being a white guy who actually made contributions to the genre that Piskor was obsessed with, but I definitely got that feeling. That's generally how I felt about his work; interesting from an artistic angle, but always something that soured the deal somewhat.

And I did read that Facebook post, unfortunately, when there was still some hope that it was a (incredibly tasteless) April Fool's joke. Just a stunningly awful thing to do. The pile-on on Evan Dorkin at The Bad Place may be the last time I visit that site.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:35 AM on April 2 [4 favorites]

P.S. Just wanted to note that my general assessment of his work doesn't include Red Room, which I bounced hard off of once I realized what it was about. Switchblade Shorties looked interesting, but I won't be perusing it now.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:37 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]

Sounds like we very nearly literally dodged a bullet in that he didn't go out in a mass shooting. You don't go to jail for being creepy in email to 17-year-olds in California, and I'm sure he would have had his defenders in the community--at worst, he would have taken a hit to income and wouldn't have been invited to certain events anymore. After five years, some of us would go "ugh, that creep" when we heard his name, and a bunch of others would be or have grown oblivious. So to do this in this way reflects vile levels of entitlement from a man who regards experiencing any accountability from lesser beings as ego death.

I hope his accusers can dodge the near-literal rain of bullets he sent in their direction, and I hope any family members of his can find peace.
posted by praemunire at 7:57 AM on April 2 [15 favorites]

I read the suicide note, because I spend a lot of time with suicides - vets kill themself so, so much, so I see a lot of suicides a year. It made me think a lot: here are the takeaways.

I think that three things can be true at the same time.

1. I think that there is a veritable horde of creepy men on the internet that interact with high school girls on the internet in inappropriate ways in order to reassure themselves that they are sexy and desirable and cool, especially men who did not feel they were that way when they were in high school themselves. When I was a high school girl on the internet, men interacted with me in utterly inappropriate ways. Some of them still contact me, declare that they remain 'in love' with me. I continue to find it weird and uncomfortable now that I am old enough to understand how inappropriate their actions are. None of them are famous, but I recognize the dynamic. I think that men, both individually and collectively, need to come to an accounting for that.

2. This man did not take accountability, and I'm not sure if the processes of public shaming are designed to create accountability. I am not sure if we have figured out a good balance between the need for accountability and the absolute chaoticness of the internet. I believe him when he says that people were contacting his parents, because internet sleuths often go a step too far and do not hold good boundaries: we have no social rules about this. I think that it would be good to figure out some social rules that we can collectively agree to about public shaming; I think that there is a danger of it exacerbating mental health crises.

3. I think that a man who deliberately turns the public mob on other people is not the poster child for the reform of public mobs. I do not think he is sincere in his desire for the reform of public mobs; I think that he just didn't want the public mob turned on him. I think he had a lot of deep misogyny, and it came out in the last thing that he did, which will make women's lives harder, and place them in danger and makes me unhappy. Not disappointed, because I don't expect much from guys like this, but deeply unhappy.
posted by corb at 8:33 AM on April 2 [38 favorites]

Praemunire, Piskor and his main accuser both lived in Pennsylvania, so I don’t see how California comes into it, but I doubt PA law cares much about protecting high school girls from creeps, so…

I sold comics in the early 90s, and Piskor reminds me a bit of some of the “edgy” creators of the time, although his work is more skilled than, say, the Vigils or Mike Hunt. He has a bit of a Crumb vibe (maybe more like Joe Matt, who turned out to be a domestic abuser) and his interests seem to align with some of the “outsider” zine people of the early 90s (e.g. Jim Goad) and the splatterpunk genre. Piskor would have been in his early teens at the time, but he seems to have looked back at the period for inspiration, and I don’t think it did him any good. He seems very much like a sort of comic and media fan that existed at the time who were not very pleasant to deal with.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:08 AM on April 2 [10 favorites]

I am not sure if we have figured out a good balance between the need for accountability and the absolute chaoticness of the internet.

I agree with this, but I also think...it's seemed to me over the past few years that the people who have been really harmed by public accountability efforts gone amok are mostly marginalized people already in or adjacent to left-leaning social groups. (Isabel Fall being the paradigmatic example here, unfortunately.) The (frankly) relatively small tempests brewed up in those groups can be overwhelming to such people, without much other societal support, whose already-limited professional contacts and social networks may all be embedded in those groups. For other people...not so much. I think we are already seeing the difference between what the out-of-pocket left does and what the out-of-pocket right does here in what happened to him (I don't think he's lying and I don't think it was appropriate, but it was also a relatively minor offense, as things go) as against what's going to/is already happening to people perceived as "responsible" for his death (a nightmare).

In other words...still thinking this out, but I don't think he's the right poster child for this position.
posted by praemunire at 9:14 AM on April 2 [10 favorites]

I refuse to have pity for a man who decided his final act before he took his own life would be to write a note in which he named people he knew his defenders would go after.
posted by Kitteh at 9:22 AM on April 2 [21 favorites]

I liked Hip Hop Family Tree at first, but as time went on it seemed increasingly clear that a)Piskor didn't love hip-hop nearly as much as he loved using comics tropes to tell a hip-hop story, and b)some early promise aside, he wasn't really interested in having a dialogue with the King-of-New-York Kool-Herc-Begat-Grandmaster-Flash Great-Man-ism that plagues most hip-hop histories, and was instead content to, as they say, tell the stories again and again.

After having read the first Red Room compilation, I'm not especially surprised to learn that he was a pretty terrible person.
posted by box at 9:39 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]

Each year, the San Diego Comic-Con hosts the Eisner Awards (named for comics legend Will Eisner). The ceremony includes a slideshow of comic creators who have passed away in the last year.

I wonder if Piskor will be included? And what will the crowd's reaction be?

I'll certainly be sending some support to Evan Dorkin (one of my favorite cartoonists).
posted by JDC8 at 12:56 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]

posted by eustatic at 2:14 PM on April 2

posted by riruro at 3:01 PM on April 2

posted by _earwig_ at 3:08 PM on April 2

- The public suicide note is absolutely monstrous, a last-ditch attempt to ruin the lives of his accusers and critics. (And it's working; the folks named in it are already getting huge waves of harassment from the worst people on the internet.)

The accusers thus far describe "relatively minor" (borrowed from a previous commenter) offenses, failed attempts at manipulation, and general unsavoriness; if anyone else is considering coming forward, the response to the public note strongly discourages it.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:19 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]

(Just to avoid any confusion, when I said "relatively minor," I meant the alleged contacting of his parents. Trying to get a 17-year-old of the gender you're attracted to to come stay with you when you're 38 is most likely not illegal, esp. if interstate commerce is not implicated, but I wouldn't characterize it as minor. It's extremely inappropriate.)
posted by praemunire at 3:54 PM on April 2 [9 favorites]

I'd only recently started watching Cartoonist Kayfabe and I was still in my first flush of fandom. Piskor struck me as a funny, endearing guy, a weird mix of centered, 40-something artist and dorky, 12-year-old hip-hop kid. I was blindsided by the accusations, and now this.

I don't know if I've read his whole suicide note, I've only seen what's been reprinted in a few news articles, but what I have seen strikes me as... ambiguous. I know people will want to declare he absolutely did awful stuff or he was absolutely innocent, but so far the situation doesn't seem that clear-cut to me. His accusers do not deserve to get doxxed or any of that shit, and I'm well aware that a bunch of toxic nerd dudes will probably make Piskor a patron saint and go Gamergate all over this. It'll be gross and terrible.

But right now I don't know what to think about Piskor himself as a human being, and I think there should be room for people who don't know what to think. Maybe you've got your mind all made up, but some of us aren't there yet, and maybe we never will be.

Putting aside the actual content of the note, the tone of what I've read was weird as hell. He was obviously planning to take his own life, but he was still cracking little jokes in that Cartoonist Kayfabe style, saying he'd "come back to haunt you dorks" and all that. I half expected him to end the note with a plug for the KC Patreon and X-Men: Grand Design.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:56 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]

I'm well aware that a bunch of toxic nerd dudes will probably make Piskor a patron saint and go Gamergate all over this. It'll be gross and terrible.

But right now I don't know what to think about Piskor himself as a human being

But...the behavior you describe is clearly what he hoped to bring about (and could reasonably expect to).

Take away the note, and you're talking about a guy who did at least one highly inappropriate thing a few years ago and seems to have used his minor celebrity to be skeezy to at least some other adult women. That obviously deserves censure, but wouldn't have put him anywhere near the high score list for history's greatest monsters. It's the choice to go out in a way essentially guaranteed to make his accusers' and (some of) his critics' lives miserable that I really judge him for.

But I know it's hard when someone whose work you've admired turns out to have done something nasty. I've tried to ratchet down my personal investment in individual creators, but there are still a few of them out there for whom that kind of revelation would mess me up good. He's dead now. If he weren't already being made a patron saint of nerd toxicity and an anti-"bullying" (meaning anti-accountability) campaign, there wouldn't be that much to say except to wish the women he hurt the best. Unfortunately...
posted by praemunire at 4:23 PM on April 2 [6 favorites]

But right now I don't know what to think about Piskor himself as a human being, and I think there should be room for people who don't know what to think.

Do we actually need opinions of him as a human being? He did some awful things, including using his choice to die to hurt innocent people. He made some art some people liked. Some people found him pleasant in his social media projects. Those are the facts. How you weight them, or how important they are to your conception of Piskor as a person is your own decision. None of us know the heart of a man that we have only had the most fleeting contact with, or none at all.

We don't need to do so in order to condemn what he actually did, and what some his fans are going to do. I don't think anyone is going to demand you formally denounce him or anything.
posted by The Manwich Horror at 4:46 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]

I am going to bow out of this conversation after this comment because this has directly affected a lot of people I deeply care about and to a lesser extent, myself (like I said, we weren't friends but we were in the same circles). This is all incredibly messy and complicated and it quite honestly sucks.

I haven't read his note and I'm not going to. I don't want to. But I can also feel for someone who, in a bad moment, felt his whole career taken from him and all the people he thought supported him turn on him. (I am also guilty there -- I was a big Cartoonist Kayfabe fan in the beginning and once all of this came out, I did unfollow his accounts and the CK accounts.) He handled it terribly but I still have to have some empathy for him because he was a real person to me. And he was a real person to a lot of people I know.

You can have whatever opinions you want to have about him. I'm still figuring mine out, as are a lot of people in my life. But for me, it's not going to be a simple thing, nor will it be for the people around me.

It can be abstract for you, as a fan or as an observer. But just know, for some of us, this is absolutely not abstract.

(Like I said, I'm not commenting again on this thread. Happy to respond to messages, though, if you feel the need.)
posted by edencosmic at 5:35 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]

Yeah… as someone who had a relationship with a niche-hobby man (with only a tiny bit of power!) the summer after I graduated from high school, after a series of exchanges very similar to the screenshots in this case, it’s not abstract to me, either.

I’m sorry that the people who loved this guy have lost their friend. But there’s absolutely nothing complicated or confusing about a grown man flirting with a teenage girl for validation. It’s not in all cases a crime, but it is shameful, fucked-up behavior. It is shameful no matter how lovable or talented he was in other ways, and people responding with disgust is appropriate.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 6:09 PM on April 2 [10 favorites]

just know, for some of us, this is absolutely not abstract

How many women are there even out there who haven't had to cope as a young woman with an older man with some cultural authority being inappropriate with them? It's not abstract to me. And, frankly, suggesting the "harm" to the perpetrator is real while the harm to his victims is somehow abstract is unworthy.

I can also feel for someone who, in a bad moment, felt his whole career taken from him and all the people he thought supported him turn on him.

Bluntly, this (his) is family-annihilator thinking.

He was a human being. I feel sorry for his family. I don't think he should be debarred from being buried in sacred ground. Nonetheless, he chose to end his life in a way that showed something vile in his character, and that will harm a number of people who did nothing more than make public his own prior bad actions towards them, and unfortunately makes it necessary that the gross immorality of his actions continue to be discussed, lest the internet turn this grown-ass man trying to lure a high-school girl into his home and blowing up everything he could reach when he had to face mere social censure for this into a victim of "bullying." If it pains you to hear all this continuing to be discussed, take it up with Rob Liefeld.
posted by praemunire at 6:30 PM on April 2 [9 favorites]

I want to stress that it was not mere social censure. Let's take it out of the realm of abstraction and think about this in terms of a person's life. This is someone whose entire job was drawing comic books. He did not, to my knowledge, do anything else in the scope of his adult life. And this isn't Louis CK or Warren Ellis, someone who can retreat to his expansive manse and leisurely flagellate himself for his wrongdoings, living off his savings. This is likely someone who made less than $100k a year. What the fuck was he going to do? I'm not sure he could have gotten a job at Walmart. Not when this is the first thing you see when you google his name. So I mean, he's basically a dead person already. His life had ended. I don't see a way he comes back from that, barring some kind of Talented Mr. Ripley/Madmen switcheroo. Improbable, imo.

And I'm honestly not sure what to say about that, other than to make an impassioned plea for UBI. (We need UBI in this country; capitalism is killing us all, quickly.) I think that people needed to know he was trying to prey on young girls. Anyway, young girls in the comics community needed to know it. I care more about them than him. But I don't want to minimize what his own actions cost him. He wasn't going to live it down. Does anybody really think that?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:12 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]

But I don't want to minimize what his own actions cost him. He wasn't going to live it down. Does anybody really think that?

I disagree. I suspect he could have recovered from this. We've never done a good job holding abusers accountable. If nothing else, he could have gone to work for one of the companies that panders to bitter conservative consumers.

But even if his career was over, there are plenty f working class jobs that absolutely do not care about anything but whether or not you are a warm body without a felony conviction. The biggest threat he faced was having to be working class, and even that was unlikely.

That said, depressed people often catastrophize and see problems as both larger and more intractable than they actually are. I speak from experience. I do not blame him for seeing this as an inescapable situation. And I don't blame him for succumbing to despair. God knows I've come close.

His decision to die lashing out at people who tried to hold him accountable is wretched, though. As was his behavior towards these women.

(I am also guilty there -- I was a big Cartoonist Kayfabe fan in the beginning and once all of this came out, I did unfollow his accounts and the CK accounts.)

You aren't guilty of anything. Neither is Jim Rugg or Evan Dorkin. Whatever he might have thought, Piskor was not entitled to a platform or an audience. Many harder working and more talented people have been denied careers. You and they have every right to choose not to support or work with someone who is using their position to do harm.
posted by The Manwich Horror at 7:32 PM on April 2 [9 favorites]

I...think it actually was that bad. I don't think his reaction was overblown. (The note was overblown, yeah.) I think a lot of people have killed themselves for much less than losing one's calling, social circle, and livelihood in a weekend. It does not seem to me this person came from a terribly privileged background, and my guess is that he didn't have anything much to fall back on.

I'm not saying that meant he should have gotten a pass, but I am saying that it's more convenient to say he "catastrophized" than it is to grapple with the reality of what happened, which is that he was a creep and being a creep literally cost him everything. And I do not know what else could have or should have happened; people in the comics community needed to know this information. But I'm not going to say it's a mystery why this guy would kill himself, because it isn't a mystery. He was doomed.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:47 PM on April 2 [5 favorites]

edencosmic and others: Please believe me that i am genuinely sorry for your loss, and i am not at all demanding that you denounce the guy now that he's dead. People, even shitty people, are complicated and messy and have other people who love them. I don't think anyone wanted him to die for the crime of being a creepy sex pest; certainly i personally did not.

As i said in my earlier comment in the thread, he chose to make his final act a cruel and vicious one, and i think that absolutely needs to be censured. But i'm also cognizant of the fact that people make bad decisions in the depths of despair, and more than anything i think it's sad and pathetic that he chose to write the note he did. He chose to die, but more than that, he chose to make himself smaller and meaner in the very moments of his death, and i can't see that as anything other than a tragedy for everyone involved.
posted by adrienneleigh at 8:16 PM on April 2 [6 favorites]

I'm going to talk pretty openly about times I usually don't, because I want to concretize the harms that are difficult to do, for people who have difficulty doing so.

When I was about 14-16, I was a young woman who was preyed upon by older men in my hobbies. They told me I was special, and unique, not like the other women they knew. I really had what it took.

I never again participated fully in the SCA, where, at sixteen, the leader of the house I joined told me he wanted to give me special mentoring and flattered me by taking me as his plus-one to a special event I was not invited to, and then brought me back to his house and sexually assaulted me, leaving me to find my own way home afterwards. Because that is the inevitable consequence of these 'minor' transgressions, when they are played to their end state.

And that's not even the worst of the harms, really. I am 41 years old and have had a number of relationships. But words one of those men uttered decades ago when I was still forming my ideas about how men and women relate to each other still echoes in my head - "There are women you marry, and women you fuck." I, of course, being one of the women you fuck, you see. It has damaged every one of my serious relationships since then - either being too grateful for men who wanted to marry me, or being too hurt when they didn't. Damage done when you are young is hard to heal.

When men like Piskor flirt with schoolgirls, they are teaching them the way to behave in order to be attractive to men. Except they're teaching them the way to behave in order to be attractive to a very specific kind of men - the type of men who are attracted to schoolgirls, just as the men who preyed on me taught me relational dynamics that only applied to misogynistic men. It taints their futures, just for the self-gratification of men who felt like they didn't get enough attention when they were in high school.

The "harm" that Piskor suffered was the "harm" that caused him to prey upon the young girls in the first place - that of not being special. Yes, he might have lost his job, and his community, and his special place of having fans, and people who looked up to him. He would have become just another working class man approaching middle age without a partner. I assure you, Walmart absolutely takes people who have done far worse - it definitely takes people with felony convictions. He would only have become depressingly and boringly mediocre. And that is what he couldn't stand - which is why he started talking to teenagers in the first place. And it is ultimately why he wrote his bitter, mean-spirited note - so that he is remembered by at least some people as a martyr, rather than a bitter, mediocre, creep of a man.

I do not, however, accept his reframing, and I do not think he was entitled to the male perception of the need for 'specialness' that harmed women and that collectively harms so many women across the board.
posted by corb at 8:21 PM on April 2 [76 favorites]

Flagged as fantastic, corb.
posted by adrienneleigh at 8:26 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]

ditto. Thank you, corb.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 9:20 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]

The fate that you outline actually sounds extremely bad to me, corb. I'm not sure the promise of a glorious new sunrise, etc., would sell me on sticking around for that, personally. And I also don't think it would keep young people any safer, turning this guy, now super embittered, into their manager at a big box store or something. Anyhow, I guess we don't have to worry about that now.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:23 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]

I'm not gonna get into a big back-and-forth, conjecturing about Piskor's possible actions or motivations. I already said what I said. But I do think it's rather classist to hold up Walmart employees as the very definition of depressing, boring mediocrity.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:29 AM on April 3 [5 favorites]

Believe me, working at Walmart is the definition of depressing and boring, though I'm not sure it rises to the level of mediocrity. That isn't an indictment of the workers.
posted by The Manwich Horror at 4:05 AM on April 3 [6 favorites]

corb, thank you for sharing that (although I wish you hadn’t had to).

Second, Piskor’s behavior was reprehensible. Grooming behavior (unsuccessful or not) should be harshly censured, and what I know about his suicide note suggests that he a) was not remorseful and b) intended further harm. I’m not convinced that he was any kind of physical threat to anyone except himself, but he clearly ended his life intending, at the least, further social damage and harassment to his targets. None of that means that he couldn’t create art that moved people or a video series that people enjoyed or even that he couldn’t be pleasant or even positive to many, even most, people. I’ve known abusers who were very nice to me personally and even to most women in their lives. That doesn’t somehow balance the harm Piskor did to a specific group of women (and at least one child). The two are different axes.

Third, I think some of the posters here have a very weird idea of the economics of comics work. I’ve known a fair number of professional comics people, and it’s long hours for precarious pay. If you have a solid relationship with an established, stable company, that means you’ve got steady work. It seems that writers have maybe an easier time, since they can work on multiple projects at once, artists have potential art sales (including pages if their contracts allow), and both can maybe make money at cons if they are high profile enough, but, except for the absolute top earners, it’s not super lucrative. Piskor comes from a comics tradition I don’t particularly like, but he was a skilled artist — in a style not aimed at the largest audiences. I don’t really know his financial situation, but, based on what I know of the business, it’s unlikely he was making a great living from it. He was already facing reverses (a Pittsburg gallery had suspended a planned show and the comics companies that made comments did not sound encouraging for his future projects). Could he have recovered? Maybe? Self-confessed domestic abuser Joe Matt continued to publish sporadically for a decade and continued to work in the trade (as an inker and colorist, I think?), but not as a major creative. Could Piskor have made a go at self-publishing and lure back an audience? Maybe? But it’s not unreasonable to say that his career, never wildly lucrative, was badly, possibly fatally, damaged.

Lastly, that above paragraph is to correct what I see as inaccurate understandings of Piskor’s financial situation by commenters here. It does not excuse Piskor’s behavior over the last 4 years and especially not the way he’s tried to damage his accusers as literally his last act. However skilled he was, however engaging as a creator, however hard he worked at honing his craft, it’s not like he’s owed a career in his chosen field. He earned some respect, but he also learned the “creep” label by using the former in service of the latter. Im sorry it came to this; maybe he could have done better later. I think it’s OK to feel a whole bunch of ways about this, maybe at the same time, and it’s OK for people to express those feelings and argue about them, especially if we can do it without transferring the stress of those feeling to each other (which we’ve mostly done successfully in this thread, I think). There’s nothing good in this story beyond a woman getting to share her pain publicly; I think it’s OK to not feel good about that.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:49 AM on April 3 [7 favorites]

Walmart employees are people, they just happen to be people in a terrible employment situation. When being a working class or ‘regular’ person is literally a fate worse than death, that can only come out of a deep insecurity that can be toxic to others as well as self.
posted by bq at 7:58 AM on April 3 [5 favorites]

I didn’t want to say this yesterday because it didn’t seem the time, but when I see accounts of adult men, especially ones with any kind of influence, talking to teenage girls like that and. Telling them they’re hot in cheerleading outfits or whatever. I know exactly where the word ‘creep’ comes from, it makes my skin crawl. Like, don’t you have the ability to remember when you were a teenage boy? Can’t you imagine what you would feel like if a creator you admired complimented your work and said you were hot? Because surely you couldn’t do that if you had any kind of conception that this is a person you’re speaking to and not an object? I’m terribly sorry about his suicide, no one deserves that kind of misery, and I feel for his loved ones, but, damn, what the fuck.
posted by bq at 8:04 AM on April 3 [9 favorites]

By the way the Reddit reaction to this is about 30% ‘he’s still a creep’, 30% ‘what a sad tragedy’ and 30% ‘this is THEIR FAULT and they NEVER SHOULD HAVE MADE THIS PUBLIC because of the TERRIBLE CONSEQUENCES’, which, fuck those guys.
posted by bq at 8:08 AM on April 3 [8 favorites]

I've given this more thought, and I now lean toward agreement with the idea that he could have gotten a job in another field. I think that, growing up in a state of financial precarity, the most frightening thing I could imagine other than harm to a loved one is loss of livelihood. To me, in a real way, it is tantamount to death. That's probably something I need to sit with a little. But it's not relevant to this discussion, not really.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:27 PM on April 4 [6 favorites]

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