'JL8' on hiatus amid Ferguson charity criticism, harassment claims [Updated]

JL8 creator Yale Stewart announced he's "stepping away" from his popular fan comic amid sharp criticism of his charity wallpapers, and allegations that he's sent unsolicited sexual photos to women in the comics industry.

Update (10:44 a.m.): Stewart admitted this morning to sending  photos to two women with whom he was involved, writing, in part, "Two years ago, I was engaged in two separate relationships with women whom I was sexually active with. Given the nature of these relationships, my experiences in past relationships, and various dialogues with these women, I thought it had been established within each relationship that intimate or explicit photos were acceptable, possibly even desired. I GROSSLY misread the situation. It has been brought to my attention that both of these women were uncomfortable with my behavior, and needless to say, I’m absolutely disgusted with myself."

"[...] I have reached out to both of these women and have made private apologies, but I felt it was my responsibility to make a public one as well. As stated earlier, I believe sexual harassment to be an incredibly serious issue, and while the harassment in question was a terrible and ignorant mistake, it does not change the fact that that’s what this was, and I accept full responsibility."

There's more at the link. The original story continues below ...

The cartoonist, who has deleted his Twitter account, wrote Tuesday on the JL8 Facebook page that his mother has received phone calls from people searching for him, as well as threatening messages. "Pros, I NEED SOME OF YOU to get my back on this," he wrote. "This just crossed a VERY real line."

"This has NOTHING TO DO with people being upset that I'm taking a break from JL8 (at least one person has come to this conclusion)," Stewart added. "This is about the Ferguson wallpaper and allegations that I've been sending unsolicited graphic photos to women in the industry."

The controversy began Friday when Stewart, whose comic depicts DC's Justice League characters as 8-year-olds, released a charity wallpaper featuring a pint-sized Hal Jordan and John Stewart with the slogan "Stand for a brighter tomorrow. Together" and the hashtag "#standforferguson." For $1, fans get the wallpaper, with proceeds benefiting the NAACP and ACLU, which are working with the family of Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old who was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

Stewart, who parlayed his fan comic into a deal for The Amazing Adventures of Superman children's books, took a similar approach in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings and Super Typhoon Haiyan. However, artist Ulises Farinas (Judge Dredd: City of Courts, Catalyst Comix) didn't view those acts as charity, but rather "a shameless ploy at self promotion":

Instead of making a cutesy little wallpaper of DC heroes you don’t own, supporting media entities that already ignore brown people, that have news companies that spin a narrative that blames the victims of police brutality and not the aggressors, why don’t you just shutup and privately donate as much as you want to ACLU, whenever you want, and not just when #ferguson is all over twitter.

Putting two images of SPACE COPS as your “SUPPORT FERGUSON” wallpaper, and offering it for a DOLLAR, is fucking gross. And i hate that we can’t distinguish between support and capitalism.

You know the only reason the dollar is going to the ACLU, is he because the product he’s selling isn’t a wallpaper, its himself.

Farinas' criticism spilled onto Twitter (and beyond) over the weekend, with the artist broaching the subject of the alleged sexual photos on Monday, first teasingly, and then with the tweet, "I love that everyone KNOWS what his 'OTHER' problem is! BIGGEST OPEN SECRET," followed by, "when's a good time to send a picture of my genitals? Before or after my children's book comes out? Asking for a friend." From there, whatever gloves there might have been, were taken off.

A Twitter search for "Yale Stewart" reveals a number of people who purport to have been aware of allegations that Stewart sent unsolicited sexual photos to women in the industry, lending credence to Farinas' "open secret" comment.

Naturally, the discussion quickly turned from charity wallpapers and self-promotion to dick pics and sexual harassment, with many Stewart supporters demanding evidence and detractors insisting it does exist (the subject has so consumed the comics corner of Twitter that artist Steve Lieber wrote, "I could happily go a year without seeing the term 'dick pic' in my feed, but things probably aren't gonna work out that way").

Stewart does have his defenders (including Justin Jordan), as evidenced by the JL8 Facebook page, and a column on Unleash the Fanboy that's already drawn fire for its "boys will be boys" shoulder-shrug response to the photo allegations -- "Now, any self respecting American male younger than 30 knows the pain of the regrettable dick slip" -- and for its characterization of Farinas (the headline reads, "Ulises Farinas Is A Jealous Idiot. I Stand Behind Yale Stewart").

While Stewart responded publicly, if somewhat indirectly, to the self-promotion criticism, he hasn't confirmed or denied the photo allegations. ROBOT 6 has reached out to the cartoonist for comment; we'll update this story if he replies.

Powers of X Finale Reveals Which Mutant Can Ruin the X-Men's Grand Plan

More in Comics