Studio Ironcat - History - Name Change and Employee Departures

Name Change and Employee Departures

The Bennetts responded by renaming the company International Comics and Entertainment, but it is unclear if the name change was simply a DBA, or a change to evoke "Iron Cat Entertainment". For the most part, rebranding the company as I.C. Entertainment was cosmetic, as the company was still referred to as "Ironcat" during this period. In 2002, the company expanded its lineup to include shōjo manga titles, such as Central City and horror titles such as Mantis Woman.

From this point on, a slow exodus of staff departed the company. Between May and August 2003, several key personnel departed the company, with one of the biggest departures occurring on July 31 (though not reported until October 6 of that year). Ten key employees departed, expressing grave personal and professional disagreements with Steve Bennett, with charges of exploitation through unfair work practices and withheld pay. On August 15, 2003, Domestic Affairs Manager Kei Blue, Senior Editor Stephanie Brown and Translator Duane Johnson, as well as four other employees, filed wage claims of over $7000 with the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, which conducted an investigation of Ironcat, though the results were not made public.

On October 6, 2003, Brown, Johnson, and Graphics Editor Ellen Ohlmacher gave an interview to ANN, accusing Bennett of denying pay to themselves and several other company employees. A follow-up report by ANN stated that "inancial documents obtained by ANN demonstrate a three-month gap in one employee's payment from March 31 to July 3, followed in September by back pay of only one-third of the $1,800 the employee claims to be owed. The records also indicate other former employees have not received some or all of their claimed back pay." ANN later reported both Brown and Johnson eventually received full back pay as of October 27, though it is unknown if anyone else had received their missing pay.

As Ironcat's finances deteriorated and internal politics began to leak to the public, the company gained a reputation as a hotbed of "chaos", filled with "high-school politics" amongst staffmembers. At one point the company held a "Save Ironcat" sale at the 2003 Otakon anime convention. During this time, the company returned to the Studio Ironcat name in October 2003, having settled amicably with Kanzaki over the name and other issues.

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