JUST TWO weekends ago, Chuck Wendig was onstage at New York Comic Con, proudly helping Marvel Entertainment announce the new Star Wars comic-book series he was writing, “Shadow of Vader.”
Since that unveiling, however, the best-selling author has been fired by Marvel for his social-media use; received threats serious enough that he says he required a police escort in public; and, this week, seen his five-issue “Shadow of Vader” disappear from Marvel’s January 2019 release schedule.
Each major development this month has caught Wendig by surprise.
It all began Oct. 6 when Wendig unleashed a tweetstorm as Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court after allegations of sexual assault in the 1980s.
“There will be renewed calls for civility. Ignore them,” the author said in a protest-urging tweet that was shared nearly 18,000 times. Wendig proceeded to use profanity when referring to Kavanaugh, President Trump and Republican leadership, saying that they have “shamed victims” and have “helped dismantle democracy.”
And last Friday, he tweeted that Marvel editor Mark Paniccia had fired him for those tweets.
The reason? “My politics, the vulgarity used to express them, and the negativity of all of it,” Wendig told The Washington Post.
Wendig, author of the best-selling “Star Wars: Aftermath” novels and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens Adaptation,” said he had completed scripts for three of the planned five “Shadow of Vader” issues — a miniseries that would offer different viewpoints of Darth Vader.
Marvel declined to comment Thursday about the status of the miniseries and Wendig’s work on it. The author says he has no idea as to the series’s status, including whether its release is being delayed.
Wendig said he did not anticipate that his Twitter use would lead to his dismissal from Marvel.
“No one warned me,” he said. “Nothing about what I was doing was particularly different for me — in fact, the tweet thread that got attention wasn’t particularly different from anything I’d tweeted before. … It was kind of a rehash of stuff I’d already said, almost word for word.
“It was inflammatory,” he added, “but really nothing out of line with what other, uh, ‘artisans of vulgarity’ might tweet.”
His Marvel termination came nearly three months after Disney, Marvel’s parent, fired “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise director James Gunn over tweets from years past that he called attempts at shock humor. (Gunn is now working on a “Suicide Squad” sequel project for WB/DC.)
Wendig said such a professional toll is “definitely” having a chilling effect among some creators.
“Since this happened to me, I’ve heard a number of other stories that aren’t public, of artists and writers who feel like they were silenced about their politics in particular,” said the Pennsylvania-based novelist and screenwriter (“Collapsus”).
“I like to hope this trend is heading nowhere, but I fear it’s becoming a weaponized thing,” he added. “Especially given the ability for bots and sock puppets to add enough heat to cause a boil-over,” referring to automated and fake online identities, respectively.
In the current sociopolitical climate, Wendig said, he sees just how cumulative online forces can spark such a boil-over. In his case, he points to online movements like Comicsgate and Gamergate, plus other conservative movements and the current administration.
Added Wendig: “I think this overall thing is still moving toward a cultural moment — some crescendo we can’t yet see.”
As for his own tweets that call for uncivil protest against Washington: “I think the civil disobedience of the ‘60s and ‘70s is now treated as uncivil. Protest is thought to be an ugly thing, and legislation — across our last several presidents — has worked to undo the bonds of righteous protest.
“For me, when I talk about a lack of civility, I mean that we shouldn’t be shamed for being angry, for using vulgar words, for standing up and being counted to make our voices heard.”
It was through Twitter, it’s worth noting, that Wendig first caught the attention of Marvel, when he expressed interest in writing Star Wars books. Now that his Twitter use led to his Marvel firing, does he plan to continue in comic books?
I "still want to write comics — I don’t need to, and for me the career is in books, not comic books — but I thought I was maybe actually starting to get good at it,” says Wendig (“Invasive: A Novel”). “Or at least ‘aggressively okay.’
“So I’m down for more. I’m hoping there will be opportunity in that direction going forward.”