Harlan Ellison is (basically) suing Fantagraphics over two issues:
First, in the history-of-Fantagraphics book WE TOLD YOU SO: COMICS AS ART that we serialized on the Fantagraphics blog last year, Gary told two brief anecdotes about Ellison’s conduct during the infamous Michael Fleisher trial. We are defending ourselves by arguing the content of these anecdotes are a) opinion and b) true (and for that matter have been circulated for over a decade unchallenged including on Ellison’s own website in the context of the notoriously one-sided Gauntlet article), Ellison has now elected to allege that they were libelous. When we were apprised by Ellison’s attorney initially that Ellison was unhappy with these comments, we offered him space in our book to rebut these comments or offer his own counter-narrative, but he rejected these options and chose to file suit instead.
Second, we reprinted the Ellison interview that caused the Fleisher suit in our COMICS JOURNAL LIBRARY collection THE WRITERS. Ellison is not suing over this –in fact, he’s admitted in public that we own the interview and have the right to reprint it—but is claiming instead that it is illegal to use his name on the cover (along with the names of the other writers we interviewed).
We have argued to the court that both claims are absurd and the suit frivolous and meritless. In our opinion, it is merely designed to harass us, bully us, hurt us financially, and chill public criticism of Ellison generally. Notwithstanding Ellison’s own denials (embedded in the text of his rambling lawsuit), we consider this suit to be a petty and malicious effort to trample our 1st Amendment rights to truthfully relate the history of our company, and to cost us money and time.
The book in question, WE TOLD YOU SO: COMICS AS ART, is an oral history of Fantagraphics Books, warts and all. It is not one of those lame, self-aggrandizing, whitewash jobs that you’ve seen from other publishers. There are quotes from a vast variety of artists, writers, employees, colleagues. Everyone from Robert Crumb, Jules Feiffer, and Kim Deitch to the Hernandez Brothers, Dan Clowes, Jim Woodring, and Jason Lutes pitches in with recollections, reminiscences, and reproaches — and, no, we are not spared the honest and sometimes scathing opinions of others, and, yes, we are occasionally raked over the coals.
We want to emphasize that at the core of this dispute is freedom of expression. Depending upon how much time you have to look at and scrutinize the facts, you can click on the url above and then click on Update 2 to look through the court documents that support the two anecdotes over which Ellison is suing.