Arlen 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!
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 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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