November 13, 2017 20:01 GMT by theguardian.com

DC Comics suspends group editor over sexual harassment claims

DC Comics suspends group editor over sexual harassment claims

Eddie Berganza removed from his duties as group editor, soon after publication of article detailing allegations by three women

DC Comics has suspended group editor Eddie Berganza following allegations of sexual harassment made against him by three women.

The suspension follows Buzzfeed’s extensive report into the allegations. One of the women, Liz Gehrlein Marsham, claimed that Berganza, a top editor at DC Comics who oversees properties including Superman and Wonder Woman, forcibly kissed her at a bar in December 2006, when she had worked for the company for less than three weeks. Later that evening, she alleged, he tried to grope her.

A second, Joan Hilty, another editor at DC, alleged that Berganza “grabbed her and repeatedly tried to pull her in for a kiss” in the early 2000s, reported Buzzfeed. In a 2014 article about sexism in the comics industry, Hilty wrote in the Guardian of “the drunk superior at an offsite office party who locked his arm around my shoulders, trying to pull me towards him for a kiss (‘If you don’t take that off me right now,’ I said, ‘I’ll break it.’)” Buzzfeed’s article suggests that Berganza was the unnamed superior.

Buzzfeed reported that Marsham and Hilty shared their stories with DC’s HR department in 2010, in a multi-employee complaint spearheaded by former editor Janelle Asselin. Asselin said that she informed HR of general unease about Berganza. “I worried every time we had a new young intern come into the office that was female,” she told the website. “I just became very concerned with what he was going to do next. The more stories I started to hear from other people, the more I started to feel this was a compulsion, that he couldn’t stop if he tried and he wasn’t trying to stop. That scared the shit out of me.”

In late 2010, despite the complaints, Berganza was promoted to executive editor, a move Asselin said was “massively demoralising”. She told Buzzfeed that all the women she knew who were involved in the complaint eventually left DC.

A third woman, who asked to remain anonymous, told Buzzfeed that Berganza forcibly kissed her at a comics convention in March 2012. The woman herself did not report the incident, telling Buzzfeed: “At the time I was so terrified that this would affect myself or my partner’s prospects in comics, worried it would jeopardise either of our careers.” But it was covered at the time by the comics site Bleeding Cool. The site initially kept the names anonymous, but later identified Berganza in the allegations.

This time, DC took action, changing Berganza’s job title from executive editor back to group editor, and according to Buzzfeed, temporarily restricting his travel to conventions. The site quoted from an email that the editor sent around that point in 2012 to DC Comics bosses, in which he apologised for the “extra stress my actions have caused” and said: “You have my word, I will not allow this to happen again. The current situation has allowed me time to think, not to mention scared the hell out of me. There’s nothing that would make me want to do this again.” Buzzfeed said that no new allegations against Berganza had been made since 2012.

DC initially told Buzzfeed, which published its article on Friday night, that it would not comment on specific personnel matters, but that “DC and Warner Bros are unequivocally committed to cultivating a work environment of dignity and respect, one that is safe and harassment free for all employees”.

“We take all claims of harassment very seriously and investigate them promptly,” it said. “Employees found in violation of the policies are dealt with swiftly and decisively, and subject to disciplinary actions and consequences.”

But shortly afterwards, the comics publisher issued a statement saying that Berganza had been immediately suspended and removed from his duties as group editor.

“There will be a prompt and yet careful review into next steps [relating] to the allegations against him, and the concerns our talent, employees and fans have shared,” it said.

Comics website the Mary Sue, however, alleged that DC’s response was “undeniably too little, too late”. “DC Comics has suspended Eddie Berganza. Seven years after their HR department reportedly heard the complaints, and a little under seven years after Berganza was promoted to executive editor,” wrote Marykate Jasper. “The men who enabled Berganza – who when asked to choose between an alleged serial harasser and creating a safe workplace, repeatedly and shamefully took the side of the harasser – are still working at DC Comics.”

The Guardian has not yet been able to reach Berganza for comment.

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