The news hit Comics Twitter like a proton torpedo. “So, here’s a thing that has happened,” writer Chuck Wendig tweeted at 2:54 p.m. ET. “I just got fired from Marvel.”
Wendig. is primarily known as a prose novelist, having penned nearly two dozen books over the course of his career. He’s perhaps best known for writing the official Star Wars novel Aftermath, published in 2015. But in recent years, he’s built a sideline as a comics scribe, doing a number of issues for Marvel Entertainment, including the official adaptation of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Marvel and Lucasfilm are both owned by Disney, and Marvel publishes a line of Star Wars comics as a result) and a superhero book called Hyperion. This week started out as one of triumph for the author, with an announcement at last weekend’s New York Comic Con that he’d be writing a new Star Wars series for Marvel called Shadow of Vader. Then, in Wendig’s telling, a curious email appeared in his inbox.
It was from Star Wars comics editor Mark Paniccia. “He sent me an email to ask for a call,” Wendig tells Vulture. He laughs. “When it’s something that can’t be discussed over email, it’s either something bad or they’re gonna offer you a job.” The pair hopped on the phone and, as Wendig recalls it, Paniccia told him he was being pulled not just from Shadow of Vader, but from another planned Star Wars project that hadn’t been announced yet. Wendig says Paniccia was “very clear about the reason, actually”: Wendig’s Twitter presence. “I was too vulgar, too political, and I was bringing too much …” he trails off. “My vulgarity and my politics were bringing too much negativity to the book and they had to pull me off of it.”
Anyone who has even a vague acquaintance with Wendig’s Twitter account can tell you that, yes, he’s quite vulgar and quite political. The two traits have a tendency of combining when he goes after right-wing critics, of which he has many. In Aftermath, he made headlines by introducing a gay character, something that certain sectors of fandom didn’t cotton to. While reviews from mainstream media outlets were generally positive or at least measured in their criticism, amateur reviews on Amazon and elsewhere routinely savaged the book for a perceived left-wing agenda. He has never made his distaste for such individuals a secret, putting them on blast on social media and in his blog. “You’re not the good guys,” he once wrote of those who disparaged his queer representation. “You’re the fucking Empire, man. You’re the shitty, oppressive, totalitarian Empire.”
Matters came to a head this weekend. In the time surrounding Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation as a Supreme Court justice, Wendig took to Twitter to vent about the present political climate, writing a now-deleted thread of vicious tweets such as, “Fuck all the GOP, fuck that blubbering, bristling frat boy judge, fuck McConnell, Ryan, Grassley, Collins, every last one of them” and, “Winter is coming, you callous fucknecks, you prolapsed assholes, you grotesque monsters, you racists and rapists and wretched abusers, you vengeful petty horrors.” He received the usual pushback from some comics fans for his comments, as well as for the fact that he had been re-upped to write more Star Wars at Marvel. But, more notably, he also attracted the attention of high-profile right-wing personalities like Ben Shapiro, Dinesh D’Souza, and Curt Schilling, who all mocked him on Twitter.
A source with close knowledge of the decision-making process behind the firing tells Vulture that this weekend was the last straw after a period of aggravation with Wendig’s social-media presence, though they say the issue was just the vulgarity, not the politics. (Marvel had no official comment on the matter, though they did confirm that the company and Wendig have parted ways.) Other Marvel creators have been vulgar on social media in the past — former Marvel writer Rick Remender told his critics to “drown in hobo piss” in 2013 — though perhaps not with the volume of crassness exhibited by Wendig. However, the politics thing is an open question. On the one hand, plenty of Marvel talents are vocally progressive on social media and in the pages of their comics. On the other, Marvel’s chairman and CEO, Ike Perlmutter, is a close friend of Donald Trump and allegedly co-runs the Department of Veterans Affairs, despite not being an official member of the cabinet. When Vulture asked Wendig whether he thinks the Perlmutter connection may have been the reason he was fired, he responded, “I can’t confirm that, but I would not be surprised.”
Whatever the case may be, Vulture’s source says the firing was a Marvel editorial decision, not a Lucasfilm one. Additionally, Wendig says Del Rey, which publishes his Star Wars books — as well as his non-franchise works — has no problem with his tweets. He says he received a message from his editor there today: “My editor [said], ‘Thumbs up, no worries.’ They’re behind me.” Wendig says Marvel had never given him a warning about his social-media presence prior to today, making the firing all the more surprising. He says his time with Marvel has been “mostly overwhelmingly positive,” and that he attempted to push back against Paniccia, to no avail. He remains confused about why this is all happening now. “It’s not like this is new for me,” he says of his approach to online discourse. “This is pretty much the tenor of my Twitter and my blog.”
This is the second time in just a few weeks that Marvel has gone through the embarrassment of a high-profile writer going ballistic on them on Twitter after a firing — writer Chelsea Cain called the publisher out after she was fired from a planned series for reasons that remain vague. So far, non-alt-right Comics Twitter has been overwhelmingly supportive of Wendig, while the Comicsgate types have been declaring a victory. Combine all that with the fact that Marvel hasn’t fired writers like Dan Slott and Nick Spencer, who have publicly gotten into major Twitter tussles with their critics, and the whole incident adds up to a very bad look for Marvel, whatever their logic may have been.
Wendig isn’t worried about his income — comics were always just a supplementary hustle to his prose writing. But he fears the chilling effect this incident might have on more economically and socially vulnerable creators who speak up in a way that the powers-that-be find distasteful. “Be more concerned for people with less power and more marginalized voices — who even BEFORE big projects [are] at the bottom of huge funnels of harassment,” he tweeted at the conclusion of the thread that began with the announcement of his firing. “Be good to each other. I’m gonna go hug my kid and eat a sandwich.”