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White men can't jump to court, says Archie Comics co-CEO

Tuesday, 3 Dec 2013 | 5:45 PM ET
Nancy Silberkleit
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Nancy Silberkleit

Veronica has lost her marbles, and Jughead isn't going to take it anymore.

That would make a great plot line for an Archie Comics, except some claim it's happening in real life at Archie headquarters in New York.

Far from Riverdale, the co-CEO of the iconic comic book company is being sued by employees for allegedly violating their human rights, according to the complaint. They claim discrimination based on gender, and in a twist, most of the victims are white men.

They allege that Archie Comics Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit has engaged in "destructive, dangerous, and at times deranged behavior" and bullying them even as she promoted anti-bullying campaigns outside of work, according to the complaint.

In one example, they allege that Silberkleit walked into a business meeting, pointed to four men, "and referenced them as 'penis, penis, penis, penis' and then walked out."

Whoa.

The employees are suing for $25 million, plus $7.5 million "to fund a true anti-bullying campaign against bullies such as the Defendant who falsely claims to support anti-bullying activities."

WHOA.

Silberkleit, whose late father-in-law helped create Archie Comics, is responding.

Her attorneys rebuff discrimination claims because "white males are not a member of a protected class" under the section of law being used. They claim the employees show no proof anyone lost his job because he's a white male. Instead, the suit "appears to be intended only to soil Silberkleit's name and image."

It certainly does that. The 29-page complaint is a better read than the classic "Archie Prom Pranks" from 1942. In the complaint, plaintiffs Mike, Victor, Debbie, Jim, Jonathan and David (hey, we're talking comic books so I'm sticking with first names) say problems with Nancy go back years.

It wasn't until she came on board as co-CEO after her husband's death in 2008, however, that they began to feel intimidated. They allege that Silberkleit wants to set herself up to be " 'Dictator' over Archie Comics, or in default of that, bring about the demise of this iconic publication in American culture."

Their claims, which go back decades, according to the complaint, include:

—Silberkleit stalked her future husband all the way to headquarters yelling, "Let me in you son of a b*tch, I'm pregnant and you better take responsibility."

—She sought to bring Hell's Angels to headquarters "in an effort to intimidate" employees, and eventually brought in an ex-NFL player.

—She became enraged after hearing the staff gave a cancer-stricken girl a Betty wig.

—She stalked employees "as we well as their families."

It goes on and on.

(Read more: Jerks on a plane: Elan vs. 'Diane' decoded)

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Whether white men can be discriminated against is one question. Whether THESE white men were discriminated against is a second question. Whether men should generally be bothered by a female referring to them by their male anatomy is yet a third question. I will let you answer these questions for yourself.

But talk about a toxic workplace.

The plaintiffs claim they hired an independent human resources professional who found that Silberkleit's conduct "cannot be tolerated—one employee relayed an instance where he heard Nancy say something like, 'All you penises think you can run me out.' "

Again with the "p" word.

Not even a temporary restraining order stopped the behavior. Employees brought in armed guards for protection. A co-trustee brought in to run interference failed to work out.

Here's the kicker.

The lawsuit is taking shape just as Silberkleit prepares to run for mayor of Rye, N.Y. In an interview, she touts her experience "as a teacher in the public schools system and as a business woman, top-level executive at an American icon, Archie Comics."

She fails to mention that employees have called her a "dictator" who is apparently more threatening to Archie and the gang than Hitler, Ho Chi Minh and Al Qaeda combined.

"While World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan did not stop the publication of Archie Comics," they argue in the complaint. "The war-like attitude and approach of Defendant may destroy Archie Comics unless this Court intervenes."

—By CNBC's Jane Wells; Follow her on Twitter: @janewells

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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