Over at CR, David Welsh reports that, as expected, Fantagraphics has filed an appeal to the recent ruling that denied the defendent’s request to strike down Ellison’s suit.
The whole thing started when Meth wrote a lengthy and somewhat harsh article saying, in essence, that Fantagraphics more than likely has some sort of libel insurance to protect them against lawsuits like the current one, so beware of giving any money to their newly erected defense fund:
Of course, the comic book industry sometimes functions outside of common sense and standard operating procedures. So I called a number of mid-size comics publishers (roughly the size of Fantagraphics) and asked for a show of hands. Everyone had insurance. In fact, one publisher noted that a publishing company would have a hard time getting legitimate licensing deals (such as Peanuts or Popeye) without one.
So why is Gary Groth — the publisher of such titles as Horny Biker Sluts, Blowjob, and Beatrix Dominatrix — walking around with his hand out like a squeegee guy? Perhaps Fantagraphics really is publishing without protection. Maybe they’ve found the cost of publishers insurance prohibitive following other legal actions. One can only speculate about this, and only Groth/Thompson and their insurance agent know for sure. But riddle me this: If your wife had three car accidents, and you were notified by Allstate that your premiums had tripled, would you drop your auto insurance? If you did, the next time the wife rear-ended a school bus, someone would take your house.
So, again, why is Groth begging alms for the poor? Answer: This appears to be a PR coup for the publisher who once thought his Comics Journal would make him the Hunter S. Thompson of the comics industry. Sadly, TCJ has become irrelevant, publishing porn has dubious merits, and it seems the only way Groth can virally promote his company is by manufacturing controversy. That’s nothing new, of course – publishers have done this before.
Groth had stated earlier on the TCJ message board that the legal expenses are not being paid by an insurance company. Although he contacted other companies for his story, Meth didn’t call anyone at Fantagraphics to confirm his suspicions, which led to Dirk calling him on the carpet:
Allow me to do a little “insinuating” of my own. Is it possible that Meth framed his argument this way becuase he was too inept to look into the matter and discover the truth, or is it because he simply wanted to dissuade people from supporting a publisher he doesn’t like without having to answer for the things he writes? Is Clifford Meth an incompetent hack who isn’t nearly the “professional” that he’s trying to pass himself off as being, or just a sleazy little weasel trying to hamper Fantagraphics’ ability to defend itself in court by any means available?
Meth responded in a comments thread at the bottom of a Beat post:
My piece at Comicmix.com was not presented as investigative journalism. It was an opinion piece. That’s why the headline said OPINION.
There was no need for anyone to call Fantagraphics. On Feb. 25, Groth stated on his own bulletin board that he *doesn’t* have insurance.
My professional OPINION is that he’s a liar.
Questions follow: Has Meth ever held a publishing or editorial position that didn’t involve working out of his garage? Has Clifford Meth ever run a company large enough to require liability insurance? Has he ever been sued? And if so, has he ever had to resort to said insurance? I’ll confess to ignorance in regard to the first two questions — hey, if that guy from Jethro Tull thinks he’s a good writer, who knows how far Meth could’ve gotten in publishing? But if the answer to the last two questions is anything other than “Are you kidding me? Of course not,” Google’s done a damned good job of hiding it from me. Which means that Meth is either assuming that because he’s ordered books from printers a few times, it gives him carte blanche to prognosticate on all matter of publishing issues regardless of experience… or he’s hoping that nobody will notice that he’s talking out his ass about things he’s in no way qualified to refer to as “professional OPINION.”
Thompson also told me that he’s been in email contact with Meth, a conversation he described as “amicable” and added that he expected they’d be able to resolve the issue soon. I’ve emailed Meth for comment and, again, will post an update once I hear from him.
I asked Thompson if he was at all concerned whether articles like Meth’s would hurt the Fantagraphics Defense Fund. “It’s a concern, but not a huge one,” he said. “The comics field is pretty polarized. The people who are on our side aren’t going to be swayed [by Meth's comments] and the ones who aren’t are going to embrace them.”