Today the Small Press Expo (SPX), a non-profit, indie-focused convention, announced that it’s partnering with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) to help support a group of embattled comics creators facing a defamation lawsuit.
In a public statement, the SPX explained it has already donated $20,000—$10,000 of which would otherwise have been donated directly to the CBLDF—to provide legal fund seed money to a group of 11 indie comics creators currently facing a legal threat from the same person. In addition, SPX plans to create an ongoing fundraising initiative meant to further support the SPX members, something the group of 11 said they, as indie creators, were in desperate need of:
“As artists, writers, art educators, comics critics, and small independent publishers, many of whom rely on freelance work to pay our bills, a lawsuit like this is going to put an enormous financial strain on all of us. Simply put, we can’t afford to fight this without help.
We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our community, and are especially grateful for the generosity of SPX to provide us with financial assistance. We also appreciate efforts by the CBLDF and other institutions and individuals who have provided additional fundraising support and legal advice.”
SPX did not name any of the 11 people facing the lawsuit or elaborate on the specifics of the legal battle. But the few details provided gel with a recent report from the Comics Journal that indie comics publisher Cody Pickrodt has filed a defamation suit against 11 individuals who have accused him of what the Comics Journal lists as “rape, sexual harassment, anti-Semitic remarks, and withholding payment of royalties to artists whose work he’s printed.” According to the Comics Journal, Pickrodt recently filed a suit to the tune of $2.5 million, claiming that the group’s claims against him that have spread across social media and caused him “emotional and mental distress.” One of the defendant’s businesses, publisher Uncivilized Books, is also listed in the complaint.
The firestorm began back in October of 2017 when one of 11 published a Google Doc in which she alleged that Pickrodt raped her after bringing her to the apartment he said he was house sitting in December of 2013. After the document’s author made it public and it began to make its way across the internet, others began to chime in with anecdotes about Pickrodt’s alleged sexual impropriety, bad business dealings, and offensive behavior—things that Pickrodt’s legal team all deny are true. Pickrodt’s attorney Joe Carbonaro has not denied that his client had a sexual encounter with the author of the Google Doc, but insists that she was “really describing a consensual interlude.”
Fights in courts like this can be drawn out over months, and if the defendants did not make any kind of preliminary response to Pickrodt’s suit, there’s a chance they would have been forced to pay his demanded damages, even if they could not afford to do so. So, SPX’s decision to step in and get the ball rolling on a legal fund for the group of 11 is of particular note. If successful, it will mean both sides will have a fair chance to present their arguments in court without one side being financially intimidated into not doing so.