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Border Town #1 (2018) cover Ramon Villalobos/DC Vertigo

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DC Vertigo cancels Border Town after sexual misconduct allegations against writer

Eric Esquivel, one of the imprint’s top talents in 2018, was accused by a former employee

Following an accusation against an unnamed comics writer on Dec. 9, and an outpouring of responses from industry voices pointing to Border Town’s Eric M. Esquivel, DC Entertainment and Vertigo have canceled the popular title.

After a major push from Vertigo, Esquivel’s Border Town debuted to critical praise in September. Now, Polygon can confirm that future issues of the book will not arrive to shelves. After an internal investigation, DC and Vertigo will no longer publish Border Town #5 and #6, and all previous issues of the title still in the hands of retailers are being made returnable by DC.

DC Vertigo declined comment on the decision to Polygon.

[Ed. note: The following contains a summary of Naugle’s accusation that may be uncomfortable for some readers.]

In a blog post, Cynthia Naugle, a toymaker and former comic book shop employee , recounted multiple graphic incidents with a former manager. While unnamed, the descriptions led many in the industry to name Esquivel as the accused. In 2012 and 2013, Naugle said that she worked under “X,” who she said pressured her into a sexual relationship and eventually became abusive when she hesitated during work hours. Later, when she refused to continue the relationship, Naugle said that “X” threatened to go after much younger girls unless she submitted to his demands, which also included requirements on what she could eat, what she could read and who she could befriend. Naugle said that after “X” left the job and moved away, she tried to maintain a friendship, but accounts of similar situations prompted her to cut ties.

In a threaded tweet, Naugle mentioned DC and Vertigo, leading many to read “X” as Esquivel.

Before penning DC and Vertigo’s Border Town, Esquivel was a journalist, as well as a comic book store manager in Tucson, Arizona, which led people to connect the writer to Naugle’s account. Border Town, the first DC Vertigo series to sell out its initial printing and be given a second since 2013’s Sandman: Overture #1, was Esquivel’s highest-profile work to date. He created the series with artist Ramon Villalobos and colorist Tamra Bonvillain, both of whom have commented in the aftermath of the accusation.

“To know the art that I’m so proud of, and the world I have lived in and created for the last year of my life had brought so much pain to individuals frankly outweighs the joy I know it brought others,” Villalobos wrote in a Twitter thread. “There is no way to really make up of my shortcomings in this situation but I hope in future actions I can find a way to show this is important to me.”

Bonvillain, who was previously advised to “let the attention remain on the parties involved,” also commented that there was a separate issue raised with Esquivel months before the accusation, which was explained to her as “resolvable, interpersonal issues.” One specific case which she heard about from a third party was brought to and investigated by DC.

“If at any point I thought there was more to the story than a guy being awkward, I would have been gone, and was ready to leave the book at the time if that was the case,” she wrote. “Regardless, I believe Cynthia, I’m sorry for any pain Eric has caused her and anyone else, and I no longer wish to be associated with Eric in any way.”

Update: Shortly after DC Vertigo canceled Border Town, Esquivel provided Polygon with his quote:

I was recently accused of misconduct by a former romantic partner. Not recent misconduct. Misconduct which allegedly happened many years ago. Out of respect for her and our prior relationship, I will not publicly name names.

I’ve taken a few days to respond, because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t talking over anyone. We’re in the midst of a very important cultural conversation right now. One I wholeheartedly believe in.

Never in my life did I expect that I would become one of the accused. I will not speculate as to her motivation for making these reckless allegations, but I want to make it clear that they are false. Though our relationship was unconventional, we always treated one another with dignity and respect.

I heavily encourage, and will fully cooperate in, any forthcoming independent investigation of these claims, which I am confident will show that I have been falsely accused.

I have been notified that DC Vertigo has canceled the book I was working on. My heart breaks for the book’s supporters, and my creative collaborators. They don’t deserve to be negatively affected by this unfortunate situation.

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