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Neither Forgive or Forget

Being Christmas, the current Pope has, idiotically, called for everyone to love everyone in the world. Where past pontiffs were truly capital-E evil, this one is merely a buffoon, because when anything is to be given freely then it irrevocably becomes valueless. As is the case with the opinions of online social networkers. Most people of the world are genuinely not worth loving, and that is perfectly fine and natural. If we are to be compelled to hate or love across the board, then that is not freedom of thought. Either way disallows people from reaping what they sow.

As my last essay observed, we do not have to love everybody, but that is not free reign to lie to them or cheat them or steal from them, and it sure as fuck is not license to kill those we disagree with, no matter how Presidential. As despised as I am by anyone living in denial over how cheek-spread Capitalism has them, I defy anybody anywhere to recall an occasion where I took out my frustrations, even my aggression, upon others. I have started fights, to be sure; even those of the busted nose variety, but I never instigated anything against a soul that did not request it. My reserve is actually unmatched, as there are oh so many who could have/should have dined on knuckle sammiches had I been one of lesser constitution.

Here is a tale of last holiday season, to prove my point. It concerns not my last freelancing work, but my last comic book-specific freelance work, and it was for none other than the man who created the CSI TV franchise. I told myself I’d give his circle a calendar year to clean their own clocks before publicly addressing this, out of the kindness of my heart.

Apparently, all of his sons are on the autism spectrum, a diagnosis as trendy now as bi-polarism was in the 90s. While the problematics that arise from a household full of misunderstood people should be obvious, Mr CSI was oblivious with head stuck firmly in Hollywood, to the extent that his first wife, the mother of said sons, hit the road. Eventually, Mr CSI hit it off with the teacher of one of his sons, a woman who had worked as a special-needs teacher for some years and who helped to shine a light on what this family was going through with his cultural status surely not being a contributing factor for her interest. And so were they married, with Mr CSI even wondering if he himself might be on that afore-mentioned autism spectrum, presumably for a family discount on legal drugs. I learned of all of this through Dave Elliott, who unlike myself had probably signed some form of NDA.

Elliott, who I had worked for and with on many projects in the past, as his secret ringer for researching, stormbraining and particularly proofreading on all manner of projects published and unpublished, including looking over a probably never-to-be-developed screenplay he’d written concerning one of the lesser-acknowledged casualties of comic book politics, the late George Carragonne. Elliott was the one who brought me into the Heavy Metal fold back when, as he knew by then from experience that my turnaround was consistently more professional than what the majority of actual professionals are capable of. We would often talk long distance on the phone for hours on end, gossiping like gay vloggers about industry insiders and outsiders. In the Spring of 2017 he’d brought me into this new fold however, where Mr and now Mrs CSI were hatching a plot to monetize their family’s issues by launching their own vanity publishing label of graphic novels, to be authored exclusively by minors writing from their own personal experiences how they themselves overcame whichever adversity. Which earnestly sounded like a neat idea. Elliott was their Editor in Cheese and Art Director. Although Mr CSI also referred to himself as Art Director for the line, along with many other titles. Until just a few months ago, the website for the brand named nobody else from their own talent pool, as evidently there was a revolving door of staff behind the scenes, even with big name industry vets such as Sven Larsen coming and inevitably going away to saner dumpster fires.

The thing was though, that none of these preteens could actually write. They were just kids with great intentions, facing exploitation. Elliott had coached them on how to construct a story, and how to do so in the format of sequential arts, but after several passes on their scripts, with one of the young scribes especially just not getting it, I was brought in. Initially I was just to proofread for the scripts and later serve as a second set of eyes on pre-press, packaged materials, but in the first week it became apparent that dramatic script-doctoring was warranted. Midway through one of the books there was great emphasis given to a thing barely mentioned in passing, while elsewhere the work referred to a thing before it actually happened in the story; examples for such matters where correcting punctuation would be like stopping a flood with nothing but gusto. I sought approval before doing so, the folks upstairs presumably embarrassed by clearly never having actually gone over any of the materials themselves. But then I had to do quite a lot of rewriting, on all the books I was handed, all of it ghost-writing which was fine as I honestly hate my name in credits. Getting their points across was all that mattered, upholding my end of the bargain.

Except until the pay discrepancies fired up, which was very early in my working relationship with the startup. Weeks turned into months where payment was still in waiting, with Elliott occasionally reassuring me how everyone was just really, really busy. I was paid for proofing the first OGN, but when my duties expanded the expanded pay never happened. The next book, proofed and fixed and proofed again, with no pay at all. The third book, proofed and fixed and proofed some more, and still no pay. Nobody beyond Elliott would acknowledge my asking about the cheques, not by email or texting or outright calling home offices. I was dependent on telecommuting freelance work, at the time dealing with a mom who still could not quite roll herself whenever a bed-pan was needed and thus having no time to go off and clean up after yuppies somewhere or other for respectable employment. Elliott knew my circumstances, and he would only ever address it privately with me when he needed me to do yet another thing for them. At the time, I honestly thought Mr CSI was laying low for fear of the then-booming #metoo craze, fearing that his own sex scandals might get dragged out into the light. Finally, just after Thanksgiving of that year, word was sent down that all pay would be sorted out in time for Christmas, until the week before Christmas, when a potential distribution deal with a major bookstore chain suddenly depended on the lettering redone with larger typography. All at once, everyone’s pay would be delayed until the letterer redid what they’d already done months before, which may have been finished before the actual holiday but then the holiday was used as an excuse for further silence and much more waiting. They manifestly ruined my own family’s Christmas that year. About every two months there’d be a new dictation for a deadline promising restitution, the date for which would always quietly come and go without either fulfillment or explanation. In early March, when it was requested that I resubmit an invoice for a book I had previously invoiced the three prior times they had asked me to do up an invoice, supposing that their accountants were on Ritalin, I told Elliott where they ought to stick it. He responded, eventually, saying he understood where I was coming from but, having made the decision himself to move overseas over other matters, a costly venture unto itself, he was terrified of jeopardizing his own chances at someday seeing his own full pay.

Despite his referring to me as a friend publicly and privately hundreds of times in the past, with one email, that was all over. He showed me his true form, as spineless as every other self-titled professional comic book editor. If what you love is reliant on lying, cheating and stealing then it is not love, but an addiction. And a year later, Mr CSI, who has made tens of millions at least from his years of sensationalizing murder, still cannot afford to pay me the many hundreds owed. I am the personal embarrassment, the resident Harvey Keitel let in the back door to sort out the difficult reality that, evidently, anybody cannot actually write a funny book, or tell a functioning story. My efforts for his company disproved their one and only unique selling point, so under the proverbial rug I went. Or perhaps wrapped inside of the proverbial rug, to be deposited someplace awful and dirty for forensic teams to later unearth and analyze.

I do not love any of the people referenced here, but I do feel sorry for the kids.