WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CN) - A co-CEO of Archie Comics claims her co-CEO plotted to take over the company by defaming her, falsely telling a New York Post reporter that she "had pointed at several Archie employees and shouted 'penis, penis, penis,' ... shouted that 'you penises think you can run me out,'" and told a worker to "stand up and pull down your pants."
Nancy Silberkleit sued Archie Comic Publications and Jonathan Goldwater in Westchester County Court, seeking $50 million for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
One of the longest-lasting of all comics, Archie and his friends Jughead, Veronica and Betty made their first appearance in December 1941, in the town of Riverdale. Its original publisher, MLJ Magazines, was founded by Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit and John Goldwater.
This lawsuit involves their descendants. Silberkleit's late husband was the son of one of Louis Silberkleit; Goldwater is the grandson of another of co-founder John Goldwater.
"As for the first cause of action for defamation of character," the complaint states: "That since plaintiff Silberkleit's ascendancy to the role of co-CEO of Archie following the death of her husband Michael Silberkleit in 2008, defendant Goldwater in his capacity as co-CEO of Archie has engaged in a malicious pattern of activity in which he has targeted plaintiff by making false and derogatory statements about plaintiff to the press and individual employees of Archie.
"That defendant Goldwater, in his capacity as co-CEO of Archie, has been motivated to engage in this pattern of defamation of plaintiff's character and reputation in order to gain control of Archie Comic Publications, and thereafter force a dissolution for Archie so that plaintiff would be precluded from any profit from that dissolution.
"That on numerous occasion between 2008 and 2011, in the presence of plaintiff, Goldwater told employees of Archie that plaintiff was a 'pathological liar,' 'stupid,' a 'moron,' that plaintiff would cause the downfall of Archie, and further, Goldwater further told plaintiff that the 'wrath of hell would come down upon you because you are stealing the Silberkleit inheritance.'
"That Goldwater has been engaging in a course of harassment and defamation of plaintiff by directing Archie employees to contract other members of the comic book publication industry and various newspapers declaring that plaintiff was a 'despicable fool' who sexually harasses her employees.
"That Goldwater directed Archie employees to communicate with many of plaintiff's clients regarding false and derogatory accusations of malfeasance by plaintiff, and has thereafter canceled a series of educational presentations by plaintiff to various comic book stores, schools, libraries and museums.
"That Archie, at the behest of defendant Goldwater, has filed a frivolous lawsuit against plaintiff Silberkleit in New York County in which Archie has sought injunctive relief based upon scurrilous and defamatory statements alleging that plaintiff has engaged in the sexual harassment of Archie's employees. ...
"That on or about December 26, 2011, Goldwater imparted false and derogatory statements to New York Post newspaper reporter Don Kaplan by accusing plaintiff of using sexual language while at the Archie offices. Specifically, defendant stated that plaintiff had pointed at several Archie employees and shouted 'penis, penis, penis,' had made reference to 'balls,' shouted that 'you penises think you can run me out,' telling another employee to 'stand up and pull down your pants,' and another female employee that she had 'big boobies.'
"That the information published was incorrect and inaccurate and caused plaintiff damages due to the libelous information contained in the article."
Silberkleit claims that Goldwater fired her personal assistant, changed the locks in Archie's offices, ordered employees to ignore her, dumped her files, and refused to reimburse her expenses.
Silberkleit is represented by Howard Simmons.
This is not Archie Comics' first round of litigation. The company sued comic artist Harvey Kurtzman in the 1960s over a parody in which the Archie characters drank, stole cars, got pregnant and sold their souls to Satan. It sued the punk band The Veronicas for trademark infringement in 2005, and has taken or threatened other legal actions to defend its fictional characters.
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