complicity

So this morning I looked in on Robyn Byrd’s twitter account. I was following a link to a screengrab she’d posted of John K sending her probably-drunken abuse and threats; as I skimmed the rest of her account, I found a list.

Ever since she and Katie came out about the way John K lured them to Hollywood and coerced them into sex when they were barely legal, they’ve been getting contacted by other people he did this to, or who he tried to do it to. I knew there were a few more people I strongly suspected he was trying to seduce, but I wasn’t expecting to see a list of nineteen people. All blanked out except for the Katie and Robyn, who were number five and six; the list started in the early 90s and continued all the way up to 2017.

And I feel queasy and complicit about the length of this list. Like everyone else who worked there when he was openly having sex with Robyn, I knew there was weird shit going on, and I never told anyone. Just hinted about it now and then. It was like this secret we were all carrying around and just… couldn’t discuss outside of the animation world. And all these enthusiastic young girls coming in from outside the whisper network of the animation scene fell prey to him. I hope most of them noped out before it turned into “move to California and live with him”.

And worse, for years I’d direct beginners looking for advice on how to improve as artists to the instructional posts on his blog. I did it often enough that I had a keyboard expansion shortcut set up. I really hope I never sent him someone who he ended up preying on. I really, really, hope I didn’t. If I did, I don’t think it’s possible to apologize enough for facilitating that connection, but please drop me a line if I did and I’ll try. I stopped a few years back when Katie told me privately that he’d been creeping on her, but…

Fuck, Spumco was a fucked-up place. Sometimes I feel like my fundamental drawing skills are irrevocably tainted by being picked up from there.

  1. Thank you for writing this, Peggy. John was such a negative energy, I don’t have the heart to lay a lot of blame on those who were too afraid of him to say anything about me. One friend who did say something was fired on the spot. (But those who actively enabled him and then recently harassed me about coming forward… I lay a LOT of blame on them.)

    Drawing, for me, was altogether tainted by and owned by him. So I’m having to start all over again after years of avoiding it. I’m lucky that in the meantime I’ve found a meaningful career, and I know that not all his victims have been as lucky.

    Thanks for thinking of me and Katie. <3

    • You’re welcome. And thanks for the measure of forgiveness.

      I’m hazarding some guesses as to who might have been actively enabling him at the time and none of them are pleasant, especially given that at least half of them had kids back then. Fffuuuuuck.

      I can only begin to imagine how much you must have loathed the idea of drawing for years afterwards, given how much he dominated your art education. I just got some fundamentals from him and brought in a lot of diverse influences; drawing’s still a big part of how I define myself. I hope you’re managing to find some new influences far afield from him to let you enjoy it again.

      Good luck getting through this and continuing to deal with all this old pain. If there’s anything I can do to help beyond saying “yeah I was there, I only saw the edges of it but these two are definitely not lying” when I see it come up for discussion, please let me know. ❤️

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