Duke City Comic Con Organizer Makes Misogynist Remark, Publicly Reposts Attendee’s Private Correspondence

Albuquerque based Duke City Comic Con is scheduled to take place this weekend, but just over the last few days the con has managed to get itself in hot water. It all started innocently enough when the convention organizer decided to run a Mother’s Day promotion on the Sunday of the con. It’s a pretty straightforward deal: Mothers can get in free if they come with someone buying a full priced adult ticket.

That seems like a rather nice deal for attendees, and it’s hard to see how this promotion could possibly produce any controversy.

What it comes down to is the way Duke City Comic Con organizer Jim Burleson posted about it, and then how he reacted to the criticism afterwards. It really is kind of amazing how through basic ineptitude a potential PR coup can be transformed into an event’s PR nightmare.

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

If you’re wondering about initial post that started this whole thing, this is what went up on the Duke City Comic Con official Facebook page on Friday night:

Facebook post

Most of this post is fine, but one part that stuck out to a lot of people was the “bring a man” portion of the message. It was a bizarrely specific call out, and (especially in comics culture which definitely has a misogyny problem) it irritated folks. Some people commented angrily, and at least one person messaged the convention to complain.

And this is where organizer Jim Burleson took what could have been an easily correctable minor mistake, and, rather than fix it, steered into it harder. After rudely responding to the private message, Burleson took a screenshot of it and posted it to both his personal facebook page and to well known comic con discussion group Rate That Comic Con.

Facebook post

We’ve chosen to obscure the person’s last name and employer, but Burleson left them uncensored on his original posts. We should also point out that while Burleson says “she went public with this first,” we can find zero evidence of this.

There is so much to unpack here. First off, while it’s true that Kathryn was a bit harsh in her message, the first rule of dealing with the public when running an event is to never take things personally. She has a point that the “bring a man” portion of their post fell into sexist tropes, and all Burleson had to do was respond “that wasn’t our intent, but we can see how you read it that way.” Then just delete the line from the original post… and everyone would have a better day.

But instead he harshly doubled down on his statement, completely ignoring single mothers and same sex couples. He also makes it worse by demanding “it requires a man to make a woman a mom,” which ignores adoption and the fact that plenty of trans women are more than capable of procreating. If there was an award for writing the absolute worst response possible, Burleson would have won it.

Beyond the awful response was the fact that he reposted it publicly. Posting private correspondence from an attendee and revealing their name is a huge no no for any organization, and opens up Burleson and the con to any liability if Kathryn receives any harassment over it. It’s also mind boggling that Burleson remotely though this response made him look like the good guy. If there’s any doubt that the organizer thought the world would side with him, it’s the ridiculous edit he then made to the original post in the controversy’s wake:

Facebook post

I cannot fathom what petty part of Burleson’s brain thought this was going to make anything better for his business. There is zero chance the words “non offensive identifying companion” was meant to do anything other than mock those bothered by what he said.

This morning someone must have come to their senses though, as any posts using that wording were removed from the Duke City Comic Con Facebook page.

None of this is super surprising though. Jim Burleson is no stranger to either making offensive statements or publicly reposting correspondence he shouldn’t. You may remember a year ago when using the Santa Fe Comic Con page (which he also runs) Burleson made really dumb comments about women cosplayers and reposted private, uncensored correspondence with actress Amy Jo Johnson’s agent. When called out on any of this, Burleson initially doubled down, lashed out, and then later deleted the posts.

Frankly, this is starting to look like a pattern for the guy.

I can say that I hope Burleson has learned his lesson this time around, but I’m honestly not sure he will. There are ways that are appropriate to talk to your customers, and if you aren’t prepared to accept a little bit of hostility when you make a mistake — maybe you shouldn’t work directly with the public. It’s unprofessional, it’s childish, and it’s so easy not to mess up it’s alarming that it keeps happening.

  • Laura Dodson

    Do you think there is any chance that he is trying to get free advertising for his event?

    • Willow Polson

      Absolutely, this is how he views the entire thing, and the previous cosplay thing. He admitted this last night. He’s in the “any press is good for business” camp, and is letting the dog whistles fly freely, assuming that the only people who matter at conventions are his dudebro pals who will agree with his 1950s viewpoints.

      • Brandon Scott Jensen

        Well, certainly you know what’s in his head. I have had the pleasure of working with Jim multiple times. The guy has many many many many faults, but he is the most straight-forward and honest person I’ve ever worked with and in this industry, that is FAR too rare. I question whether the writer of this article reached out to Jim for a statement or if they just decided to create their own narrative.

        • Willow Polson

          We “know what’s in his head” because he TOLD US HE WAS DOING THIS. He explicitly said he was doing troll advertising on Facebook yesterday. He may be lovely to you, but he has been anything but lovely to the women who have called him on his shitty sexist behavior and PR trolling. I’ve seen it first hand, as did the author of this piece who was commenting in the same posts I saw yesterday. We’re not exactly making all this up.

          • Brandon Scott Jensen

            But you’re also not getting his side. To ME it’s clear that his wording was meant as faux misandry. (“ladies, make that man pay!”) but then i wasn’t looking for a reason to be offended.

            Is “ladies night” at bars also misogynistic?

          • Willow Polson

            Enjoy your goalpost moving and straw men, I don’t play that game, champ.

          • Brandon Scott Jensen

            Ah yes. the “straw man” argument. Which is what any hipster calls it when they don’t have a response. Willow, this was an attempt to give away free tickets for mothers. Nothing more nothing less. But everyone wants to be offended by something.

          • Willow Polson

            I also don’t hire crew members who will be a pain in the ass on set. Thus sayeth this 50-year-old Executive Producer. #MightWantToUseGoogleSometime

          • Liam Murray

            Brandon asked me to post this in reply to your asinine attempt to “humiliate” him after he was banned for speaking the truth.

            Willow, honey, if were going to whip out resumes, you may want to search IMDb for me. I am a union script supervisor with more than ten years of experience and more than fifteen credits to my name including eight feature films most of which have national distribution through Samuel Goldwyn Mayer, Universal, Lionsgate and others.

            You’re an associate producer for a troma film and an “executive producer” of a YouTube series
            … Frankly, I doubt you could afford me and I think my career will be fine without you.

            #mycareerisingreatshape

          • Willow Polson

            So fragile.

          • Yeah, you’re replying to nothing. as he got deleted.

            Because apparently no one reads a site’s commenting rules.

          • Willow Polson

            Sorry, I’ll delete my most recent comment there. I looked all over and didn’t see rules. Didn’t mean to be a problem. Thanks for this great article, it was much needed.

          • If you had been the problem, you wouldn’t have been able to post that. 😛

          • Jeff Hartz

            What Brandon failed to recognize in his original complaint of you re-posting Burleson’s post is that as a news outlet you are allowed to do that.
            Information publicly obtainable, like the way Jim posted it, can be easily and freely disseminated. So if Jim, and by extension Brandon, had a problem with news outlets reposting it, they need to sharpen their pencils and begin the letters with “Dear Congressperson, I’d like you to make some alterations to The Bill Of Rights….”
            What Jim did was take a Private Message and post it publicly without the sender’s permission. He included her contact information which made her available to receive unsolicited and unwarranted contact, up to and including the possibility of death threats. If something like that were to occur, that would make Jim, and by extension DCCC, legally responsible and subject to prosecution.
            Then to try and obfuscate that potential liability, Jim proceeded to the tried-and-true legal defense method of “Nah uh. She did it first!”. I believe the first recorded use of this doctrine in US legal history goes back to an 8-year-old with his sister, a pair of scissors, and a partially bald dog.
            It’s clear from the comments made by Jim in response to this issue in the Rate That Comic Con thread as recently as yesterday that his issues with his brain cooperating with his mouth are not over yet. One of his last comments was made to me directly asking “when exactly am I expected to implode?”. I think that moment is fast disappearing in the rearview mirror…
            On a side note, I’m curious. Is Jim married? Does he have kids? If so, if his wife wanted to come to the con that Jim is working at on Sunday, who would be available to go with her to get HER ticket? After all it did say “Bring a man to buy a ticket”. So if he’s already there, does she have to wait for him to buy a ticket to a con he gets in for free at?

          • Lorelei Lee87

            Sweetie, I’m sorry you don’t have what it takes to understand why “bring a man” is sexist.

          • Cpt_Justice

            Yes, “Ladies Nights” at bars is misogynistic, as every misogynist who has ever whined about this to me has been told. Because the ONLY reason there are “Ladies Nights” at bars is to BRING IN ladies FOR the men. (BTW, the whining about Ladies Nights? That’s “looking for a reason to get offended”, if only because it’s extraneous. You are grasping at straws. You should stop while you are behind.)

          • Laura Dodson

            That was my first reaction. He’s done this before. He knows that his convention will get covered. (Honestly I had never heard of this con before.) I’ve read enough on small biz marketing that negging is a great way to promote a business.

          • Gary A Wilson

            it’s a first year event and raising money for Autism speaks – action speaks louder than words

          • Dude… Autism Speaks is a pretty terrible organization. https://www.theodysseyonline.com/7-reasons-not-support-autism-speaks

          • Gary A Wilson

            What autism charity do you recommend I already have donations

          • Autism Self Advocacy Network is a good group http://autisticadvocacy.org

          • Gary A Wilson

            I found a local charity Mind Research Network to keep the donation local, but thanks for the heads up

        • There is zero justification in posting private correspondence to publicly mock someone including listing the person’s name and place of work. No narrative could possibly justify that.

          • Brandon Scott Jensen

            But just to be clear . . . posting HIS private correspondence, which people are doing constantly, IS perfectly acceptable.

          • “posting HIS private correspondence, which people are doing constantly”

            Citation needed.

          • Brandon Scott Jensen

            Ah, but there’s the dilemma. See, then i’d also be posting private correspondence and just as guilty. So all i’ll say is that if you search tis controversy on facebook, you’ll find multiple examples of this.

            Frankly, I don’t really see the issue. I have had my “private conversations” posted before. I don’t do anything online thinking that it’s truly private but i guess that’s just me.

            All Jim did was post her actual words. If people think Jim “looks bad” in the op, he still “looks bad” here and if people see the whole story in public, they see the whole story here in “private.”

            You ALSO posted her private correspondence. Does that make you bad? I mean anyone who wanted to find who this person is would be able to find it in less than a minute since (as you noted) it’s public elsewhere.

            If this person was being bullied for her views and words against Jim, then you have undoubtedly made it worse.

            And all by your unprofessional “journalism” which refuses to get the whole story and uses inflamatory remarks about a guy who’s trying to give away free tickets to moms and also does so for police, firefighters and autistic kids. He gives away SO many tickets but yet it’s never enough, is it? EVERYONE wants a free ticket to his event and when they don’t get it, they use that as an excuse “not to go.”

            Stop being a cheapskate and pay for your own ticket.

          • We reposted it with permission, and a business sharing private correspondence is unethical and is very different than someone posting a response they got FROM a business. The power balance is something you’re ignoring, and refusing to acknowledge.

            You’re making claims without backing them up, moving the goalposts. I literally had Burleson’s “side” of the story because he’s been sharing it everywhere he can.

          • iteration2

            “He gives away SO many tickets but yet it’s never enough, is it? EVERYONE wants a free ticket to his event and when they don’t get it, they use that as an excuse “not to go.”

            Stop being a cheapskate and pay for your own ticket.”

            I haven’t seen any comments implying that anyone wants a free ticket, or is upset that they can’t get one. I also don’t see any indication that anyone is concerned that the deal won’t be given to a daughter who shows up with her mother. Therefore, making this argument is very much a straw man argument because you’re making up and arguing against gripes that would be unreasonable, but which no one here is making.

            As pointed out in this article, the complaint which Jim received was pretty harsh. Perhaps overly so. However, the problem with his wording, which insinuated that any mother going to the event would be accompanying a man specifically, is strikingly and immediately obvious. And if he’s admitted that this is deliberate trolling, it really doesn’t help his case, because his trolling is at the expense of any girl or woman who’d want to attend his event, who are already at risk of feeling out of place in what is stereotypically a male-dominated community.

            He should have known better than to double down on this, especially after a complaint has removed his ability to plausibly claim it was a mere oversight. It takes the merest of instants to think up half a dozen obvious exceptions to “it takes a man to make a woman a mother”. You can easily think up a few in less time than it takes to type a response, and I can’t imagine he’s too dumb to have done so. Therefore, what are we left to assume other than that he’s made a deliberate attempt to alienate those who don’t fit the conventional “mother/son” paring he alluded to in his initial post.

            And if that complaint was sent to him privately, then reposting it publicly for the sake of mockery is a pretty serious ethical breech.

          • Cpt_Justice

            What private correspondence? Not only have I seen no private correspondence posted, I did see him straight-up lie about his target “having gone public first” & he was just retaliating.

      • Gary A Wilson

        There was a good crowd and the pre event attendance by the kids and adults with autistim was decent so the theory was sound

        Unless you want Wizard World to come in charge 4x the price for the booths, pricing the local vendors out of attending along with most of the atendees and taking the money made by the local vendors and send it out of state and forget them doing any kind of charity work or discounting for children (kids and chaperones go in free) give it a rest no one was harmed

        • Willow Polson

          Sexist comments harm no one. Sure. Except that they do. Every woman is subjected to the constant drip-drip-drip-drip of it on a daily basis, beating us down slowly like water carves into stone. “It’s just a joke, lighten up” gets really old when you’ve been told “you’d be pretty if you just put on some makeup” and to get back into the kitchen for the 4 billionth time (SO FUNNY, RIGHT?). So maybe you give it a rest, since you’re the one that’s been posting here several different times arguing how this is all perfectly fine.

          • Gary A Wilson

            Was there physical harm? NO I have been bullied all through school with worse comments, been called every name in the book by Drill Sergeants,NCOs and a Command Sergeant Major with more time in the Army than on Earth, guess what I survived and grew a thick skin and when life seems unfair or kicks me in the teeth I acknowledge it and move on.

            If Burelson physically threatened thats one thing, mere words only hurt when you let it. To qouote Eleanor Roosevelt “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

            BTW I never condoned any comment, I’m saying people have become thin skinned, guess what, life’s unfair, it’s up to you whether to chalk it up to someone who is not PC deal with it and move on … or wallow, I choose to move on

          • Willow Polson

            Verbal abuse and harassment is totally fine. Got it.

        • Gary A Wilson

          Attendance is awesome so I guess people can forgive an inappropriate comment

          • Not really sure what your point is.

          • Gary A Wilson

            The guy who wrote this made a big stink and thought people would boycott just the opposite happened

          • *squints at byline* Preeetty sure my goal was just to inform the public of unethical business practices of a conrunner and let people make an informed decision themselves.

            And there’s zero call for a boycott in the text.

            Did you READ the actual article?

          • Gary A Wilson

            I’ve known Jim for almost a decade and will vouch for his character if you want unethical ask people about Jack-O-Con from 2013- 99% of the vendors lost their booth fees when the show was cancelled after a few hours Matt Shepard was the sleaze that ripped us off

          • The article literally details an unethical act by Burleson (the republishing of a private message sent to his business along with the person’s name and employer). That’s what it’s about. Your attestation to his character is meaningless, as there is a confirmed action we can point to.

            This blog didn’t exist in 2013, and I’m sure we would have covered that situation if it had.

            Bringing it up is a distraction, and frankly I don’t think your continued posts in this discussion are contributing anything to the community

          • Gary A Wilson

            Your opinion, I am informing you of the man I know: who is huilding tiny homes for the homeless out of his own pocket, contributes regularly to charities, so to me he is my friend and I stand proudly by him the majority of the comic con community stands by him, too FACT

          • Gary A Wilson

            Truth be known I never heard of this blog until now

          • Then feel free to never come back to it.

          • Doing one thing right doesn’t justify doing something else wrong. He did a documented unethical thing (sharing private correspondence), and it’s not the first time (see the incident with Amy Jo Johnson’s agent last year).

            And everything you’re citing is unrelated. I mean, I didn’t bring up the time he killed a guy, did I? http://www.qcsunonline.com/story/2007/06/02/publishnews/burleson-charged-in-shooting-of-jason-pacheco/7162.html

    • Debby Stark

      This article was linked to by the DukeCityFix, which I read daily. This is the first I have heard of the ComicCon being here, this weekend(?). I guess they have to look for ways to advertise freely as I haven’t seen any paid advertising anywhere (maybe the Alibi? I haven’t picked up a recent issue though). ETA: facebook is mentioned below as being used to advertise, but I hardly ever visit there, and not ComicCon’s page, so it doesn’t seem to me to be a great place to advertises to reach everyone.

    • guest

      The Trump method of advertising: any publicity is good publicity.

  • Also on the subject of the super gross “takes a man to make a mother” like…would I (for all intents and purposes a woman) be prevented from bringing my mother? Like, if me and my siblings wanted to bring her, would my brother be the only one able to do so, with me and my sister out in the dust?

    Just weird and gross.

    • Brandon Scott Jensen

      Actually, having ANY adult pay for a ticket on this promotion would have worked. It’s just a buy one get one free deal that’s for mothers. People mis-read the original post as something mysogynistic when it was actually faux misandry. The only thing weird and gross is that people are looking for ways to be offended. If you want to attend the con, I suggest you do so. If your mother wants to attend she can for free with your paid ticket.

      • No one was criticizing the actual promotion. Some people took offense to comments in the post — but to cloud the issue with the nonsensical idea that anyone had a problem with the promotion itself is absurd at best.

        The controversy is about the way the con handled the criticism and how Burleson acted unprofessionally. While the original comment might have just been taken the wrong way, Burleson made misogynist and transphobic comments in response. That is made explicitly clear in the text above, and to ignore that makes me wonder if you remotely read the article.

        I think we’re done here.

      • Cpt_Justice

        No, people read the post right, as proven by the doubling-down of the jerk who made the original rules.

      • James Roach

        Aww…are you defending him because he hasn’t banned you from his events yet.

  • Cpt_Justice

    What an incredible douchebag

  • Chris Gama

    While I agree that the wording in the original post about the promotion could have been much, much better, and of course Jim could have responded a bit more professionally, I would also have to say that this Kathryn person that messaged him with a pretty nasty line could have been a bit more tactful as well and nobody is calling her out on it, just attacking Jim.

    The tactful way of handling it should have been more like “I would like some clarification on the wording of this promotion please. I am a mother and I would like to bring my child with me, but as for the person that is the paying adult, can it be any adult or does it have to be a man? I’m a single mother (I’m guessing) and I can bring an adult friend of mine, would that work?”

    But no, she immediately attacks him and calls him a misogynist, so in that instance you can expect two responses, either an equally harsh attack like what happened (while again, that is unprofessional) or a professional response like, “Sorry about the unclear wording. While typically I would assume a mother to be her husband/boyfriend, it can of course be any adult with you.” Even that wording isn’t perfect, but it is a lot more professional.

    Gotta step back and see both sides of this here. If you attack somebody, you’re just increasing the chance that their response will also be an attack.

    • If your skin is so thin you can’t handle one angry member of the public without childishly lashing out, you aren’t qualified to work the counter at Burger King, let alone run a con.

      • Chris Gama

        I don’t disagree with you at all on that point. Somebody running a convention should have a bit more professionalism than that. Hell… a LOT more professionalism. I’m not trying to excuse him for anything for sure, as he has done something like this before. He’s very…. principled… in his beliefs and standings, and when he’s challenged by them he lashes back.

        My main point is that I think everybody overall in all aspects of their lives should be more tactful and avoid attacking right away as their first instinct. I think that’s becoming a huge problem today not just with social media, but in nearly every interaction we have with people.

  • Gary A Wilson

    Big blow up about nothing and pure bullshit – Jim is doing good things – free admission for children with autism today (with a paying adult) before the show opens and donating the proceeds to Autism speaks try reporting that

  • Gary A Wilson

    Ever stop to think who gets hurt? = not Jim, but the volunteers, vendors (especially from out of state), guests from out of state, celebrity guests some of whom depend on signings for income, hotels, restaurants and local stores that see a spike in revenue when a comic con is put on

    how does it feel to be so weak that mere words hurt and affect you?

    • A business owner acted unprofessionally. It’s news, and if learning about his actions makes people decide not to do business with him, then it’s Burleson’s responsibility for fucking up.

      Burleson’s the one who hurt people, not the people noticing it.