Arlen Schumer Owes Some Volunteers At San Diego Comic Fest An Apology

Arlen Schumer sdcfArlen Schumer does a lot of history panels at comic conventions. He had five lined up for San Diego Comic Fest this past weekend, but we wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t asked back. Schumer caused an awkward scene when he refused to listen to an “end-of-panel” warning and swore at volunteers on stage.

Arlen Schumer is a comic art historian and a “comic book-style illustrator for the advertising and editorial markets”. He’s written a couple award-winning coffee table books about comic art history. Convention organizers like his VisuaLectures, which are slideshows accompanied by pretty thorough and specific art critiques. They’re a fun way to fill a room with substantive programming and highlight comic icons.

What isn’t so fun is the reputation Schumer is giving himself for being rude to audiences and volunteers. For example, a SDCF attendee reported that Schumer was unhappy with the crowd’s applause for his The 60th Anniversary of The Twilight Zone: An Arlen Schumer VisuaLecture presentation. He ended the panel by yelling, “Maybe show a little more gratitude, huh?”.

He went beyond that on Sunday at his “50 Years of Neal Adams’ Batman: An Arlen Schumer VisuaLecture” panel. A teenage volunteer in the back of the room caught his attention to signal the end of the panel. That’s fairly standard practice. Schumer argued about having more time, then claimed he deserved more respect from the volunteer (who remember, is just a teenager following convention guidelines) and kicked the kid out of the room.

When another volunteer came back to firmly end the panel Schumer snapped, “Yeah, F*** you.”

Three times. Into the mic. In front of the audience. Because that’s how he decided to react to being asked to end his panel on time instead of running 20 minutes over like he had already done earlier in the weekend (according to other festival attendees). When the adult volunteer objected to his language Schumer dismissively told him after the panel to take it up with Mike Towry (SDCF founder and all around nice guy).

Keeping it classy, Mr. Schumer.

Schumer did seem to realize he’d gone too far, because he threw out a grumpy, “Sorry to end on a bad note but that’s what you get for lecturing five times in three days.”

So… his behavior is the convention’s fault because they gave him so many panels? That’s a weak non-apology that only makes the situation worse.

Watch the last couple minutes of the panel, where he snaps at the volunteers, here. The first interaction with the teenage volunteer starts at the :35 second mark, but we left a bit of the panel on the front to give you an idea of his presentation style. (Video courtesy of Dan Berry.)

So far there hasn’t been an official statement from convention organizers on the incident. We’ll update this article if one drops, but for now we’re just hugely disappointed. As a regular public speaker Arlen Schumer should have more professionalism than this. He hasn’t even taken a moment to apologize to the volunteers in person, on his blog, or on Twitter.

Frankly, since he laid into them in public his apology should be just as public. It’s been a full day with nothing.

If he isn’t even interested in an apology, we have to wonder if Schumer even thinks he did something wrong. Is he sitting at home angry that a volunteer dared interrupt his panel- which they were doing quietly at the back before he made it a big deal- or is he hoping it blows over with no public comment?

That raises the question: if he doesn’t think he did anything wrong, are we going to see a repeat performance at future appearances?

Were you at San Diego Comic Fest? Did you catch any of Arlen Schumer’s panels? What do you think? Share your thoughts with us!

Author: Khai

Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to “True War Stories”, a comic anthology being published by Z2 Comics. When she’s not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.


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About the author

Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to "True War Stories", a comic anthology being published by Z2 Comics. When she's not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.

Comments

  1. The man’s an asshole. I was a part of his Jack Kirby Facebook page and he kicked me off of the site because I backed him up on not making this site all about Stan Lee. Apparently, that was a test of loyalty that I failed and by saying that we shouldn’t just bash Stan Lee all the time, it made me not a Jack Kirby fan. Speaking as an academic scholar and a comics fan, you shouldn’t let this guy near your festival or convention. His narrow point of view and his lack of tact, plus his inflated ego as being the arbitrator of “true fans” vs “fake fans” has the potential to make the people in attendance and the people behind the scenes very uncomfortable.

    1. I feel like anyone who conducts secret loyalty tests is someone who has already failed the same test for their friends and fans. Who needs that in their life?

      We’ve actually been hearing a lot of stories about Schumer and his behavior at conventions. This article is just about SDCF, but there are other conventions that won’t have him as well. It will be interesting to see what it takes for organizers to wise up to the risks.

    2. Don’t you [PERSONAL ATTACK EDITED BY ADMIN] realize that the flip side to the presentations i do to SRO audiences, that brings them to cheers and/or to their feet, that is why that PRINT magazine article I posted was written, is the SAME emotional well that my TEMPER comes from when petty functionaries who haven’t been instructed how to treat a GUEST utterly SABOTAGE my presentation that said audience was enraptured by???

  2. I was at the con but didn’t see his panel and will not in the future. He sounds like someone to keep away from.

  3. Even after being cautioned by other longtime fans against interacting with Arlen, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and yet he proved himself to not be worth the bother. I drove more than 100 miles each way to attend Arlen’s Hanna-Barbara presentation at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, and afterwards I bought a copy of his book. I reminded Arlen of this in a Facebook Messenger exchange after he kicked me out of his Silver Age group for questioning his controlling behavior, saying “I’m not the enemy.” There had been previous instances where I almost spoke up in the FB group, especially regarding the Stan vs. Jack issue that the Kirby family considers settled, but I managed to remain silent. Arlen finally annoyed me beyond tolerance, as explained below.

    There was a post about the 1960’s Japanese Batmanga comic by 8-Man creator Jiro Kuwata. I commented that I happened to be in the middle of reading the series and there is similarity between Bruce Wayne’s face and Agent Brady in the American version of 8-Man I watched as a kid. Arlen asked for a visual comparison, so I obliged and went to some trouble finding two examples and putting them together into a JPG. I added the image as a second comment, and Arlen wanted me to instead edit the original comment. I did it, but I also said that it seemed like needless nit-picking, which it was. That was all it took to set Arlen off. I wasn’t POSTING something, I was COMMENTING on something, and yet he insisted on being a control freak. I said there is a difference between administering and being controlling. His excuse? He was moderating a lot of groups! These are groups that he CHOOSES to have, of course. Nobody is telling Arlen to keep busy by having more Facebook time than he can manage. I’m older than Arlen, and I did what I could to try bringing him around to conducting himself in a more adult manner. And yet Arlen, who insisted that I should have simply done what he wanted me to do, resorted to calling me a “dip-shit.”

    Arlen said it’s my loss that I was being kicked out of the group, to which I could only say “not really.” I went from being a casual comic book reader in 1965 to a full-blown fan when the Batman TV show premiered in early 1966 and, honestly, there really is nothing that Arlen can offer that I don’t already know. I wanted to support Arlen’s efforts in promoting an awareness and appreciation of what made the Silver Age so great, but he has lost me as an ally, and has only himself to blame.

    1. Hey Doug Pratt! I had TOTALLY FORGOTTEN about you, but it seems YOU’VE remembered EVERY GODDAMN DETAIL about our past interactions! [COMMENT EDITED BY ADMIN DUE TO EXCESSIVE PROFANITY]

      1. Don’t you [PERSONAL ATTACK EDITED BY ADMIN] realize that the flip side to the presentations i do to SRO audiences, that brings them to cheers and/or to their feet, that is why that PRINT magazine article I posted was written, is the SAME emotional well that my TEMPER comes from when petty functionaries who haven’t been instructed how to treat a GUEST utterly SABOTAGE my presentation that said audience was enraptured by???

        1. Please stop personal attacks. Abide by our website policies of having respectful debate. I realize this is difficult for someone with your temperament, but you aren’t in your own space here and you must abide by the rules of the space you have chosen to engage.

          No, having presentations that people enjoy does not give you the right to be rude to people. That’s an incorrect assertion.

    1. Real talk here… did you share an article where the writer calls you “highly opinionated and often combative” as evidence that you weren’t rude at a convention?

      1. I get the feeling he doesn’t see being rude as a problem. The impression I’m getting is that he thinks this behavior is justified somehow.

          1. How is this behavior justified? Why do you feel that cursing people out and insulting them is an appropriate way to behave to anybody? Especially these circumstances, where a volunteer was just doing their job.

            1. In the space of just ten screen inches, most of which have been filled with the words “This comment is against website policies and will be edited accordingly. Please read our policies: https://thegeekiary.com/policies,” Angel Wilson has become my greatest source of joy this morning.

              I have added The Geekiary to my RSS feed.

        1. Don’t you [PERSONAL ATTACK EDITED BY ADMIN] realize that the flip side to the presentations i do to SRO audiences, that brings them to cheers and/or to their feet, that is why that PRINT magazine article I posted was written, is the SAME emotional well that my TEMPER comes from when petty functionaries who haven’t been instructed how to treat a GUEST utterly SABOTAGE my presentation that said audience was enraptured by???

          1. So you’re passionate about your work. That’s a good thing. But it’s not an excuse to treat people poorly, or a license to swear at and berate someone in public because they’re enforcing a rule you don’t feel applies to you. I doubt you were the only one running a panel that weekend that got the five minute warning from convention staff yet somehow you’re the only one anyone is aware of having had a childish outburst over. Perhaps you should think about that.

      2. “Combative” about things like Stan Lee, Khai, [PERSONAL ATTACK REMOVED BY ADMIN]. Learn how to finish quoting properly. not “combative” with my audience. Unless it’s a couple of dipshit volunteers who don’t know how to treat a GUEST who’s PRESENTING for them, for NO MONEY.

        1. Arlen, this comment is also against our website policies. Your personal attacks will be removed. Please see our policies: https://thegeekiary.com/policies

          Additionally, I’ve been a guest for multiple conventions, as has Khai. Neither of us have ever been paid and we’ve always been polite. Please refrain from being rude in our comments section. Thank you.

      1. Many people on this website have the same level (or higher) education that you do and they do not behave this way. Your education is not an excuse to be rude to people. I hope you get the help you need for your anger issues because it’s very clearly disrupting your professional career and interpersonal relationships. I wish you well Mr Schumer.

  4. Not surprised San Diego Comic Con panders to this guy, they’ve always been a backstabby boy’s club, and will tolerate appalling behavior by men like Schumer while slighting able and personable creators not in their special circle every time. I for one can’t wait for this sort of entitled comics person to get winnowed out.

    1. Different con. I don’t know what you’re talking about in regards to SDCC, but it didn’t happen there. It happened at San Diego Comic Fest. I’d be interested in hearing more about the accusations against SDCC though as this is the first I’ve heard of it.

      1. I know it didn’t happen at SDCC. I posted this because he’s always going on about how important he is because he gets to lecture at SDCC. He waves it in people’s faces like a flag. He’s had a toxic rep for years, but as long as he’s in with the SDCC admin, he gets preferential treatment.

        1. Ah, I see. Thanks for the clarification! I didn’t realize SDCC had this problem. I’ve heard about similar things with other cons though.

          1. Big time problem everywhere he goes. If conventions want a comics lecturer who doesn’t treat fans like crap, I suggest Danny Fingeroth. Really nice guy, highly knowledgeable. Trina Robbins also does wonderful women in comics lectures.

  5. AN OPEN LETTER TO THE COMIC BOOK & CONVENTION WORLD:

    Folks, for the past 39 years I’ve been commercially illustrating, writing/designing books, and lecturing about comics and pop culture at universities, cultural institutions and comic conventions. Last week, at the San Diego Comic Fest in which I was invited to give 4 lectures, there was an incident at the last lecture on Sunday, March 10, that I would like to address.

    To start off, I want to apologize to the volunteer that was involved in the incident; as someone who has given themselves over to the love of the medium, I recognize that this young man was there probably for the same reasons—he loves comics, like we all do, and was just trying to be a part of things and do his job. It was an unfortunate 2 minutes, and while I can’t take them back, I can let this young man know that I am sorry I reacted the way I did, and I hope he will continue to be a part of the comics scene, and not let this singular episode spoil things for him moving ahead. I don’t know your name, young man, but to you and your family, I humbly apologize for acting like an ass in the moment.

    There has been a lot of blowback in the wake of this incident, playing out online and opening doors to personal insults and slanders, both ways, that I, having reflected on things, am sorry, for my part, to have been a cause of—to Scott Shaw and Clifford Meth, I’d like to say we are all better than this, we are all driven by the same love and passion, and I apologize here, and am truly sorry things sunk so low.

    And to the SDCF organizers, Mike Towry and Matt Dunford, I apologize for casting a pall over the wonderful convention you folks created with my behavior and post-con actions and reactions.

    No one is perfect, and clearly I am not. This recent event, after being angry and hurt at first, has spurred me on to looking inside, not just outside at the big world of comics and pop culture which I love so much and have dedicated my life to: I plan on working as hard on myself moving forward as I do on all of my art works. I’ve been in a personal wilderness for the past dozen or so years, and sometimes it is hard to see the forest for the trees.

    I appreciate you reading all this, and hope to see you in the funny pages.

    —Arlen Schumer, Westport, CT March 18

    1. Mr. Schumer, this is a nice gesture but I’m not sure it cuts it. Yes, you lost your cool. But for days you justified the loss of your cool and insulted anyone who saw it otherwise. The “personal insults and slanders” you mention? The majority of those were from you; just scroll up a bit on this thread. You even use this apology as way to shift some of the blame for the online kerfuffle onto Scott Shaw and Cliff Meth when it’s obvious you’re Patient Zero for this entire event. And based on what various folks around the comics community have had to say, both fans and pros, these are not isolated incidents. I’d like to think this is sincere and not just belated damage control. I really hope it is. I wish you luck on your journey.

  6. I saw this over on Bleeding Cool. I hesitate to dismiss it out of hand because I want Mr. Schumer to work out his issues that make him lash out like he is. I’m a big fan of people redeeming themselves through action and public words… but I have to admit this apology feels like a “everyone was a little wrong, my bad, let’s just call it even” spin and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    It will be interesting to see how he treats staff, volunteers, and audiences in the future. That’s the real test, isn’t it?

  7. The unfortunate incident at San Diego Comic Fest wasn’t Arlen’s finest hour.

    I witnessed it first hand and I was stunned. This (and how he behaved afterward online, like on the Geekiary site) wasn’t the person that I had gotten to know at San Diego Comic-Con 2018.

    The Arlen I knew was an engaging and knowledgeable guest on my podcast that lasted well over two hours, where he displayed the passion for pop culture that he was known for. He also showed vulnerability that I wasn’t expecting as he recounted how, as a young man, he was moved by Bruce Springsteen, one of his pop culture father figures (since he had lost his own father at a young age).

    He was also a concerned mentor that spent another almost three hours at dinner after the podcast, giving me professional advice and of course, pop culture remedial homework (which I still need to do). He could have just as easily spent the rest of the night networking (as he had his portfolio with him), so I will always appreciate that he took time out of his busy schedule to give me some sage advice.

    We started SDCC 2018 as friends and left as brothers.

    I’ve read his apology and I think it’s sincere. I also know that he sent additional notes apologizing to both volunteers.

    He deserves a second chance to redeem himself and I look forward to attending his next VisuaLecture.

    I also hope he attends San Diego Comic-con again. Hopefully my homework will be done by then.

  8. Sorry, but his apology rings hollow when he tries to include his victims in the blame, leaves out an apology to Scott’s and my son, Kirby Shaw, and then totally backpedals IN THE SAME POST as his “fauxpology” on his Facebook page.

    What he has posted about Scott, the recent amputation of his foot, and his personal attack on Kirby, is the most vile, shocking, and potentially dangerous cyber-bullying I’ve ever witnessed. When I reported him to Facebook, they recommended filing a police report. That’s serious business.

    I’m the most forgiving person on the planet, but Schumer is unforgivable.

    Judith Shaw

    1. I’m so sorry for what you and your family are going through right now. What he said about your husband was particularly shocking. I can’t even imagine that kind of attack. You and your family have my sympathy right now. I hope the rest of the convention was enjoyable for you all.

  9. Thank you, for your kind words, Angel. Scott managed to have a great time at SDCF, his first con since the amputation, in spite of witnessing several of Arlen’s awful encounters with people. Scott had a lot of friends helping him get around, which was so thoughtful of everyone.

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