The critically-acclaimed Vertigo hit Border Town may be over, as artist Ramon Villalobos and colorist Tamra Bonvillain have left the series following sexual abuse allegations against writer and co-creator Eric Esquivel.
The allegations were posted online [explicit content warning] in a post titled "my experience with my abuser," by Cynthia Naugle, an ex-partner of Esquivel's. While she declined to name the man in question, referring only to him as "X," comics-industry insiders quickly outed Esquivel as the target of the piece. The post hit on December 9 and included a lengthy and detailed history of sexual and emotional abuse by Naugle's ex-partner. It began circulating among comic book professionals on social media almost immediately.
"Two days ago, I was first made aware of the experiences shared by Cynthia Naugle about her relationship with Border Town writer Eric Esquivel," Bonvillain tweeted. "The way he treated her was disgusting and inexcusable, and issue 5 is my last issue working on Border Town."
She further suggested that there have been other complaints about Villalobos, including some that were reported to DC/Vertigo, but that as far as she was told, those were not related to abuse and were "solvable interpersonal issues."
Bonvillain was joined by artist Ramon Villalobos, who also left the title. In a statement posted to Twitter, Villalobos said that neither he, nor Bonvillain or any member of DC/Vertigo's editorial team were aware of allegations against Esquivel until they became public days ago.
Below, you can find Villalobos's statement:
"Out of respect for all parties involved, I wanted to stay quiet about this situation the last few days but I feel like I should take a moment to say my piece.
"I have made it my practice to believe women, full stop. The bravery and strength it took for her to write that letter is probably not strength or bravery I may ever have. There had been vague rumors about Eric and his treatment of women and although I was given no real specifics, I insisted to Eric that he come clean to me and our team about any inappropriate interactions he may have had. I think now that I did not give enough weight to those rumors and I can’t state enough how much I regret that. To the best of my abilities, I took the matters through the proper channels and DC/Vertigo handled it in a way that felt responsible and direct. I probably can’t get into detail allowed me to get back to my job. I want to be clear that neither me, Tamra, or anyone in editorial knew about what came out and it’s very disheartening to se information come out.
"Border Town meant a lot to me because it was a confluence of so many of my interests. Elements of horror, comedy, teenage rebellion, latino culture, etc. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that I’ve poured everything I had into this and it is the best work of my relatively young career. It has made my life better having done it.
"But this is not about me.
"Whatever this person felt and experienced is what matters the most and I want to be clear that I think dealing with abuse and making the comics industry a safer place is the most important thing to come from this. 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 and that is going to be something that is hard to reconcile. 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. Thank you."
Esquivel has not issued any kind of statement. As of this writing, he has disabled most of his social media accounts and set his Twitter account to private. DC/Vertigo had no official comment as of today.