Comic artist Ed Piskor kills himself following sexual harassment accusations he denied in a posthumous note

The author of the ‘Hip Hop Family Tree’ comic books posted a five-page letter on social media, in which he claims the allegations against him were false, and blames internet bullies for persecuting him to death

U.S. comics artist Ed Piskor.
U.S. comics artist Ed Piskor.cartoonist.kayfabe
María Porcel

American comics artist Ed Piskor has died at the age of 41, his family announced on Monday, April 1. Piskor’s cause of death has not been made public. But prior to his death, he posted what appeared to be a suicide note on social media, in which he addressed the recent sexual harassment allegations against him made by two women. Artist Molly Dwyer accused him of trying to seduce her when she was still a minor, while another woman, Molly Wright, claimed that Piskor asked her for oral sex in exchange for helping her career. Piskor denied the accusations in a long, five-page message that he published a few hours before he died. Experts, however, argue that many factors influence suicide, and that it cannot be attributed to a single event.

Piskor was known for creating the comic book series Hip Hop Family Tree, which began in 2013 and reviewed the history of the musical genre in the United States since the 1970s. The books were translated into half a dozen languages, and in 2015, the second collection won a prestigious Eisner Award, the most important in the world of cartoons. The latest installment, a compilation of the saga of more than 500 pages called Omnibus, was published in October 2023. However, the prolific professional life of Piskor, born in Pennsylvania, has been overshadowed by his personal issues and accusations of harassment.

Last weekend of March 24, Molly Dwyer, a lauded 21-year-old cartoonist from Philadelphia, called Piskor a “creep,” claiming that he tried to “groom” her in 2020, when she was just 17 years old. Dwyer shared messages that she received from him. One read: “Are you 17 or 18? Imma be so mad if you say 17 because this crushes me at that age.” Dwyer posted the messages — which were picked up by comic media outlets — in an Instagram Story that is no longer visible (it disappeared after 24 hours).

A few days later, another artist, this time from Pennsylvania, Molly Wright, claimed that Piskor had asked her to perform oral sex on him in exchange for providing her his agent’s phone number.

Following the accusations, an exhibition of Piskor’s work in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was suspended. “The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust learned yesterday of allegations of misconduct made by an individual against artist Ed Piskor, whose work was scheduled to be on exhibition at 707 Penn Gallery starting April 6, 2024,” a spokesperson for the fund explained to a local newspaper on March 25. “The Trust takes the allegations very seriously and has decided to postpone the exhibition indefinitely.”

A vignette from a volume of 'Hip Hop Family Tree', a series of comics created by Ed Piskor in which he tells the history of hip-hop.
A vignette from a volume of 'Hip Hop Family Tree', a series of comics created by Ed Piskor in which he tells the history of hip-hop.cartoonist.kayfabe

For four years Ed Piskor had a program on YouTube — with more than 90,000 subscribers — called Cartoonist Kayfabe, which he co-presented with fellow cartoonist Jim Rugg. The program analyzed the world of comics and interviewed different people from the field. On March 30, Rugg shared on Instagram that he had decided to stop this collaboration. “In light of this past week’s shocking revelations, I find it necessary to reevaluate my professional associations to ensure they align with my values of respect and integrity. Therefore, I have ended my working relationship with Ed Piskor,” he said in a message that can no longer be seen.

Justine Piskor, the cartoonist’s sister, announced his death. In a message on Facebook on the afternoon of April 1, she posted a brief text with several photos of the two of them together: “It is with the most broken heart that I share my big brother, Ed, has passed away today. Please just keep our family in your prayers as this is the hardest thing we’ve ever had to go through.”

That same day, at 8 a.m. (Pennsylvania time), shortly before his death was announced, Ed Piskor posted a message on Facebook, which he used frequently. “I’m helpless against a mob of this magnitude. Please share my side of things. Sayonara,” he said. The post included a link to a much longer text: a five-page document in a Google Drive file, which begins with “I’m so sorry for being so stupid.”

“The language and optics look real dumb at best but I promise my innocence,” Piskor continues in the note. The artist says that he should never have spoken to Dwyer, but he was curious to meet someone so young and talented. He claims that the fact they met up did not imply that he wanted a sexual relationship, but recognizes that he should not have approached a 17-year-old. “Curiosity killed the cartoonist,” he wrote. “The whole pile of my dms [direct messages] she collected to show is just awful to look at. I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to offer professional favors to anybody or use my ‘position’ (what a joke) to get into anyone’s pants. We’re all in the art game so why not introduce new friends to old friends?”

With respect to Molly Wright, Piskor claims her accusations were false and that he never wanted to maintain a relationship with her. He said they had sex twice, because she was interested in him during the Covid-19 pandemic, but that he never wanted to take things further. “I thought things ended naturally,” he wrote. In the document, he goes on to say that Wright’s accusations are a “conundrum” to him and that “her actions border criminal.” “He said/ she said never looks good but none of what she said happened and I can’t believe she’d be so malicious and pile on like this. Now that I’m officially checked out I think my family has a civil lawsuit and she should be held accountable. She’s a petty woman scorned. Punitive and false. My house was burning and she threw gasoline on it.”

In addition to denying the accusations, Piskor explained that social media was an important way for him to meet people, since he was a “solitary guy” and “never felt satisfied” with his drawing skills. In the letter, he said that there were people who had tried to help him — among them his co-host, Jim Rugg, who he claims came to his house uninvited, gave him a hug and told him he loved him — but that he was not “strong enough” to deal with the fact that he was “no longer part of the tribe,” describing himself as “exiled and banished.” “I wouldn’t wish this shit on my worst enemy,” he wrote.

“I was murdered by Internet bullies. Massive amounts of them. Some of you out there absolutely contributed to my death as you were entertaining yourself with gossip. I wasn’t AI. I was a real human being. You chipped little bits of my self esteem away all week until I was vaporized,” wrote Piskor, in which he also asked his family and friends for forgiveness: “I hope it makes people think twice when joining an internet feeding frenzy.”

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