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Celebrate Banned Books Week with banned comics

Banned Books Week kicks off today, and the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom has lots of resources for those who are interested, including a blog and lists of the most challenged books over the past 10 years or so.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which is a co-sponsor of Banned Books Week, has a comics-specific list on their site as well, compiled by Betsy Gomez. Click on the title of any comic and you will get more details about the book, why it was challenged, and what the outcome was. The list includes everything from J. Michael Straczynski’s The Amazing Spider-Man to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, and you could do a lot worse than to just spend the week reading those graphic novels.

The CBLDF also has a list of ComicsPRO retailers who are having special events around the country to celebrate banned comics, and offers brochures and other resources for retailers who want to have their own events.

Comics A.M. | Cyborg 009 reimagined; A Distant Soil artwork needed

Cyborg 009

Publishing | According to the San Diego Comic Con schedule, Archaia will publish an adaptation of Shotaro Ishinomori’s classic sci-fi manga Cyborg 009, “reimagined” in Western style. The adaptation will be written by F. J. DeSanto and Brad Cramp, and illustrated by Trevor Hairsine. In case you missed it, David Brothers recently wrote a fascinating piece on the original. [Anime News Network]

Creators | Colleen Doran is looking for original art from her creator-owned series A Distant Soil. “I require good quality scans of the art for the future editions of the print books, as well as the upcoming digital editions … If you purchased A Distant Soil original art, I would be very grateful if you would get in touch with me.” [A Distant Soil]

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Comics A.M. | Comic artist’s claims against songwriter can proceed

Legal

Legal | A federal judge has dismissed two claims by comics creator Jason Barnes, aka Jazan Wild, against songwriter Andreas Carlsson but will two others to move forward in a lawsuit over a graphic novel biography. The two signed a deal in 2007 for Dandy: Welcome to a Dandyworld, with Carlsson allegedly retaining the copyrights and Barnes receiving pay plus a percentage of book sales and a cut from any merchandising and movie deals. Carlsson filed suit three years later after Barnes posted Dandyworld online, a move the artist answered with a countersuit claiming, among other things, copyright infringement, bad faith and breach of contract because the songwriter published a bestselling novel in Sweden “inspired by a graphic novel created by Andreas Carlsson and Jazan Wild.” Barnes, who claims he never received residuals from the sales of the novel, asked a federal judge to determine copyright ownership. U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder refused to enter summary judgment about Barnes’ copyright, saying ownership will rest on whether he was an independent contractor of Carlsson’s employee, and dismissed the artists’ claims of negligent representation and fraudulent inducement. However, Carlsson will have to face accusations of breach of contract and bad faith.

If the name Jason Barnes, or Jazan Wild, seems familiar, it’s because two years ago he sued NBC and producer Tim Kring for $60 million, claiming elements from the third season of Heroes were stolen from his 2005-2006 comic series Jazan Wild’s Carnival of Souls. [Courthouse News Service]

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Comics A.M. | Will Eisner Graphic Novel Prize for Libraries launches

Will Eisner

Graphic novels | The Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation and the American Library Association will launch the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Prize for Libraries at the ALA summer conference, held June 21-26 in Anaheim, California. Three libraries each year will be selected to receive all the books nominated for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, as well as a $2,000 voucher to buy additional graphic novels and a $1,000 stipend to hold comics-related or author events. Libraries to register to win at the ALA conference; winners will be announced June 24. [Publishers Weekly]

Graphic novels | Calvin Reid and Heidi MacDonald look at the graphic novel presence at last week’s BookExpo America. [Publishers Weekly]

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First Second graphic novels make list of most-challenged books

The American Library Association just released this year’s list of Frequently Challenged Books, and there’s just one graphic novel (actually, a trilogy) on the list. And it’s not The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Battle Angel Alita, either — it’s The Color of Earth, Kim Dong Hwa’s quiet, rather poetic trilogy of Korean graphic novels published by First Second. The reasons cited: “nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group.” I have only read the first volume, but I can tell you that it’s not all that spicy; it’s the story of a young girl growing up with a single mom in a village in rural, 19th-century Korea, and while love and sexuality are a part of life and are discussed openly (including in the bath), much of the conversation is wrapped in nature imagery that is … not very informative. Indeed, the first volume opens with a sex scene, but it’s between two beetles.

I checked in with the folks at First Second, a publisher more at home on ten-best lists than most-challenged lists, and this is what Calista Brill, who edited the book, had to say: “We knew we were risking challenge when we published these books. But sexuality is a part of the adolescent experience, and The Color of Earth and its sequels handle this conversation with remarkable honesty and positivity. These books may have ruffled some feathers, but we remain very proud of them.”

As is often the case with frequently challenged books, this one has some critical support: the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) named it to its Great Graphic Novels for Teens list in 2010, the Texas Library Association’s Maverick Graphic Novels List and Booklist’s Top 10 Graphic Novels for Youth. Interestingly, assuming the list is in order of the number of challenges, this book racked up more challenges than The Hunger Games and frequent fliers like Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice books, Sherman Alexie’s Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and of course, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Maine school board votes to keep Stuck in the Middle in libraries

A Maine school board voted overwhelmingly last night to allow the anthology Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics from an Unpleasant Age to remain in middle-school libraries after a parent challenged its appropriateness because of “objectionable sexual and language references.”

The Sun Journal reports the board of Regional School Unit #10 in Dixfield agreed with a recommendation made last month by a special committee that the book be made available only with parental permission. Superintendent Tom Ward said this is the first time in his eight years as head of the district that a book has been challenged.

Edited by Ariel Schrag, the 2007 anthology features contributions by such cartoonists as Gabrielle Bell, Daniel Clowes, Joe Matt, Dash Shaw and Lauren Weinstein. As the title suggests, the frank stories focus on the highs and lows of life in seventh and eighth grade, from first loves to first zits. It was selected by the New York Public Library as one of its 2008 Books for the Teen Age.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom sent a letter to Ward last month saying that Stuck in the Middle “may not be right for every student at Buckfield Junior-Senior High School.  But the library has a responsibility to represent a broad range of views in its collection and to meet the needs of everyone in the community – not just the most vocal, the most powerful, or even the majority.  While parents and community members may – and should – voice their concerns and select different materials for themselves and their children, those objecting to particular books should not be given the power to restrict the rights of other students and families to access the material.”

Board member Cynthia Bissell disagreed with that notion, arguing the anthology does nothing to fulfill the function of schools. ““I read it cover to cover,” she said. “I was appalled. This book does nothing to elevate students. It implies that everyone speaks and acts that way.”

This isn’t the first time Stuck in the Middle has been challenged: In November 2009, a South Dakota school board voted to remove the book from middle-school libraries while making it available to teachers to use in class.

Comics A.M. | Digital comics milestone; Kickstarter’s patent battle

comiXology

Digital comics | Following the entry this week by Image Comics into same-day digital release, 40 percent of the comics that debuted in print Wednesday were also available digitally through comiXology. Asking whether day and date comics are “hitting a tipping point,” retailer news and analysis site ICv2 notes: “Publishers are gaining confidence in the concept as evidence grows that day and date releases do not negatively impact print sales. DC’s bold move to convert its entire line to day and date digital with the New 52 has been the clearest indication yet that digital sales are not cannibalizing print.” [ICv2.com]

Legal | Kickstarter, the two-year-old crowd-funding site used by a variety of artists to fund projects, has asked a federal court to declare invalid a patent held by Brian Camelio, who founded ArtistShare in 2000. Camelio, a composer and former studio musician for the rock band Journey, has obtained a patent for a process that resembles Kickstarter’s own crowd-funding model. According to PaidContent, “Kickstarter ask a federal court to declare that the patent is invalid and that the company is not liable for infringement. If the patent, described as ‘methods and apparatuses for financing and marketing a creative work,’ is valid and Kickstarter is infringing, the site could be forced to shut down or pay significant damages.” [PaidContent]

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Comics A.M. | Borders customer info exposed; Amazon profits fall

Borders Rewards

Retailing | Borders Group says it’s determined that fewer than 150 customer names and emails were “obtained” by outsiders when a website published a searchable database of information associated with the retailer’s Borders Rewards loyalty program. The site, apparently set up by the marketing firm that helped the bookseller design and implement the program, was shut down over the weekend after Borders learned of its existence. A spokeswoman said the company is continuing its investigation. Borders Rewards has more than 41 million members. [AnnArbor.com]

Retailing | Amazon’s first-quarter profits tumbled 33 percent, even as revenue rose 38 percent, due largely to the costs of expanding its warehouse and data centers. [The New York Times]

Conventions | For the first time, organizers of the American Library Association’s Annual Conference & Exhibition will make space available for an artists alley — for free. This year’s conference, which will draw about 19,000 librarians, is held June 23-28 in New Orleans. [American Library Association, via The Beat]

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Comics A.M. | Comic sales in December, Nick Lowe promoted

Batman: The Dark Knight

Publishing | Diamond’s December numbers for sales in comics shops are out, and the picture is grim. Diamond reports that it sold 89,985 copies of the top selling single-issue comic, Batman: The Dark Knight #1—the lowest number for the month’s top seller since ICv2 started tracking the numbers in 2001. In its more detailed dollar analysis, Diamond sees comics sales down and graphic novel sales up for a slight overall increase, both in December and in the last quarter of 2010 as a whole. [ICv2]

Publishing | Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada announced that Nick Lowe has been promoted to senior editor. Lowe edits Uncanny X-Men, Generation Hope and New Mutants, among other titles. [Comic Book Resources]

Publishing | Douglas Wolk boils down the 2010 comics sales data into some easily digested bullet points, for the benefit of those who don’t like to spend all day squinting at sales charts. [Techland]

Pop culture | Apparently inspired by Tiger Mask, a character from a manga popular in the 1960s, people in Japan have been quietly dropping off gifts for children in orphanages and other institutions. [Inquirer.net]

Digital comics | Johanna Draper Carlson tries out the comiXology app for the Android OS and is somewhat underwhelmed. [Comics Worth Reading]

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Straight for the art | Jeff Smith’s ‘Read’ poster for ALA

Jeff Smith's poster for the American Library Association's "Read" campaign

Jeff Smith's poster for the American Library Association's "Read" campaign

The American Library Association asked Bone creator Jeff Smith to participate in its “Read” campaign, which promotes the joy of reading. The result is this original art of Smiley Bone, available from the ALA website as a poster or a bookmark.

ALA, award-winning Skim draw scorn of conservative commentator

Skim

Skim

Using the award-winning graphic novel Skim as ammunition, a conservative columnist has launched a preemptive strike against the American Library Association’s 2010 Youth Media Awards.

In a post at Newsbusters, a website devoted to “Exposing & Combating Liberal Media Bias,” Carolyn Plocher pursues the bugaboo of the ALA’s “not-so-hidden gay agenda,” and tells parents to look forward to “dozens of books with themes about ‘coming out,’ pedophilia, trans-gender issues, and sodomy laws.”

As an example of what we may expect from the Youth Media Awards, Plocher turns to Skim, the 2008 graphic novel by cousins Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki about a 16-year-old Wiccan at an all-girls school who falls for her (female) drama teacher. Mariko Tamaki has described Skim as “a gothic Lolita lesbian story” told from the perspective of the Lolita.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Plocher describes the book differently, if with more detail: “The protagonist of the graphic novel, Kim Cameron — nicknamed Skim because she’s not slim — participates in séances, channels the spirits, swears judiciously, discusses porn and handjobs, and skips class to smoke. The major plot of the story revolves around Skim’s relationship with her flaky drama teacher, Ms. Archer. When Ms. Archer catches Skim skipping class and smoking a cigarette, she sits down for a drag herself, which eventually leads to a romantic relationship depicted in a double-page tableau of the two kissing in the woods.”

A double-page tableau! Of kissing! How … scandalous?

But you see, it’s all part of the ALA’s devious plot to use highfalutin terms like “authentic literature” and “literary merit” to take up the twin causes of “normalizing homosexuality and advancing the gay agenda.”

“The ALA claims that ‘authentic literature’ like Skim more accurately portrays the gritty, real American life, and therefore, has more literary merit,” Plocher writes. “It’s a manipulative tactic that has effectively stocked library shelves across the nation with pro-homosexual books that inevitably fall into children’s hands.”

If you’ve fully recovered from your shock by Jan. 18, you can follow the ALA Youth Media Awards via live webcast here.

Last chance to get your votes in

The Secret Science Alliance

The Secret Science Alliance

David Welsh reminds us that October is the last month to nominate a title for the Young Adult Library Services Association’s 2010 Great Graphic Novels for Teens list.

The list of nominations — which you can read here — so far includes titles like Alan’s War, Stitches and Secret Invasion. You can nominate the book of your choice here. Books must have been published this year, or have a copyright date between September and December of 2009.

My personal pick? The Secret Science Alliance by Eleanor Davis.

Even Banned Books Week has its detractors (surprise?)

Fun Home

Fun Home

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about Banned Books Week until I read this somewhat-maddening column in The Wall Street Journal that paints the American Library Association as a well-funded, reactionary bully attempting to silence “a few unorganized, law-abiding parents.”

Yes, those awful, awful librarians!

The opinion piece, by Mitchell Muncy of the Institute for American Values, goes on to characterize citizens who challenge books as underdog patriots “petitioning the government for a redress of grievances” — granted, a poem by challenged YA author Ellen Hopkins provided the fuel — while librarians hand down “hidden verdicts” as they stigmatize any who dare oppose them (presumably while rolling, Uncle Scrooge-style, in a money-filled room).

Oh, and then there’s the whole table-turning moment, when Muncy asks who’s actually the censor: the mean librarian or the ordinary citizen. Hey, it’s to be expected. You don’t win sympathy, or rouse the faithful, by portraying yourself as Goliath (no matter what your cause is).

What really irked me, though, is this part: Without a hint of irony, Muncy tsk-tsks the ALA’s use of “loose language,” then asserts that books aren’t truly banned in this country because if you can’t find a title at the local library or bookstore, you can always track it down elsewhere: “Not even the most committed civil libertarian demands that every book be immediately available everywhere on request — though in the age of Amazon that’s nearly the case.”

If I were playing Muncy’s game, I might portray him as a big-city elitist with little appreciation for the child whose small town may not have a Borders, and whose family budget may not permit participation in “the age of Amazon.” For that kid and others, the forced removal of a book from the local library is, truly, a banning.

More outrageous still is the implication that the wishes of the complaining party take precedence — hey, let everybody else be inconvenienced — and that having a book pulled from the shelf is an acceptable alternative to monitoring what your child is reading and explaining why a title might not by appropriate for that child.

Banned Books Week continues through Saturday. Celebrate by going to your local library and checking out a title on the ALA’s frequently challenged books list. While you’re there, donate some books, and thank a librarian.


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