X-POSITION: Burnham, Culver, Villalobos Spell Out "E Is For Extinction"
The Ball-Chatham School Board in Chatham, Illinois, voted unanimously this week to keep Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis on a reading list for seniors at Glenwood High School.
Mike Housewirth, the father of a student, had asked that the graphic novel be removed from the list, questioning the teacher’s judgment in assigning a book about Muslims on Sept. 11. He also objected to the book’s depictions of torture (particularly one in which a guard urinates on a prisoner) and dismembered bodies.
“If my son had drawn a picture like that at school, he would have been expelled,” Housewirth said, adding that while he felt his son was mature enough to read the book, the overall tone was “appalling.”
“Reading controversial material does not hurt students or corrupt them,” countered Glenwood High School Principal Jim Lee. Students don’t simply read a book and accept it at face value, he added; they use it as a springboard for discussion and reach their own conclusions.
This year’s pairing of Banned Books Week and comics, with considerable input from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, was pure genius. While it is sponsored by a number of organizations, Banned Books Week is heavily supported by libraries, and librarians have been among the most ardent boosters of graphic novels in the last ten years.
In fact, Banned Books Week is really all about libraries, and to a lesser extent, schools. The days of government censorship in the form of prohibiting publication, import, or sale of a book for offensive content are long gone. Nowadays, “banned books” really refers to books that someone wants to remove from a public library or a school. Often, those attempts are unsuccessful because the library in question has a solid acquisition policy and a process for handling challenges, which is how it should be. Libraries buy books for a reason, and they shouldn’t take them off the shelves without a better reason.
Many public library challenges have a similar narrative: Kid checks a book out of the library, mom finds the book and freaks out, mom goes to the library, or the press, and demands the book and all others like it be removed from circulation. When the proper process is followed, a committee of professionals reviews the book and makes a decision, and you and I seldom hear about it; it’s when someone goes to a public meeting and starts yelling and waving a book that things go haywire. That’s what happened in South Carolina, where the a mother let her daughter check out Alan Moore’s Neonomicon, which the library had correctly shelved as an adult book, then was shocked to discover it had sex in it. In this case, the library review committee recommended that the book remain on the shelves but the library director overruled them.
Political Cartoons | Facebook has removed an article from the Revolution News Facebook page, issued a warning to the owners of the page, and banned one admin for 12 hours, apparently because the article included a cartoon by Carlos Latuff that “violated community standards.” The cartoon shows Death pulling a skeleton from the grave; the skeleton has a swastika on its skull and is wrapped in a Greek flag, a reference to recent neo-Nazi activities in Greece. [CBLDF]
Comics | The Edmonton, Alberta police department has created a digital graphic novel about Alex Decoteau, the first Aboriginal officer in the department. Decoteau was also an Olympic runner and was killed during World War I at the age of 29. [CBC]
Legal | Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo has filed a legal complaint against his daughter Sylvie and her husband Bernard Choisy, claiming “psychological violence.” The dispute began in 2007, when Sylvie and Bernard were dismissed from their positions at Les Éditions Albert René, which published Asterix; a year later, Uderzo sold his stake in the company to Hachette Livre. The two filed their own legal challenge in 2011, claiming Uderzo, who is now 86, was being exploited by others. In this week’s filing, Uderzo says he is perfectly capable of managing his own affairs, and adds, “The sole purpose of these acts is to undermine our psychological integrity and to hasten our debility, in order to get their hands on our legacy, which they covet.” [The Guardian]
Attendees at Saturday’s Comic Arts Brooklyn will have the opportunity to support a great cause and get their hands on some cool Paul Pope art. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund will be at table D11 selling, among other things, a limited-edition Paul Pope Battling Boy print. In addition, Larry Marder (Beanworld) and Jeff Smith (Bone, RASL) will be at the booth signing autographs.
Check out the full print below. Comic Arts Brooklyn takes place Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Mt. Carmel Church on 275 N. Eighth Street in Brooklyn.
Once in a while, when I go into the comics shop to snag my weekly pile, there will be something on the shelf that catches totally unaware. On Oct. 2, I was delighted to discover the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Liberty Annual 2013 (published by Image Comics). Given that all the proceeds from the book (previewed here at CBR) benefit the CBLDF, I wanted to interview Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie, who directed the project. While I had his attention, I couldn’t pass up the chance to discuss some of the Dark Horse line as well.
Tim O’Shea: While seemingly an obvious question, I still think it worth asking: Why is it so important to you to volunteer your time for a project like the CBLDF Liberty Annual?
Scott Allie: Free speech is a near and dear cause, for me and for Dark Horse, and it’s still an uphill battle for comics. There are preconceptions about this art form that invite attacks, and we need to work to defend against that. I want creators and publishers to be free to put out what they want to put out, and for retailers to sell it without fear of prosecution, for readers to travel with their books without fear of incarceration. The CBLDF isn’t just about raising money in court cases. They’re about educating the population about the art form we love, and I want to be a part of that.
Creators | Jeff Smith, who was named last week to the board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, talks briefly about the importance of the organization, and the 2010 challenge to his all-ages graphic novel Bone in a Minnesota school. [Comic Riffs]
Comics | Archie Co-CEO Jon Goldwater, writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Francesco Francavilla have a few things to say about the new zombie series Afterlife With Archie. “We are taking a series of characters known to be lighthearted and young adult-oriented and doing a horror comic with them, so the mood, atmosphere, and setting are very important to make this a believable horror and not a comedy horror,” says Francavilla, who’s also the creator of The Black Beetle. “Fortunately, I am really good at making things dark and ominous.” [The Associated Press]
As a contributor to the site, as well as a reader (I frequently linked them in Comics A.M.), I’m not at all impartial about this: I’m sorry to see it go.
MTV Geek debuted nearly three years ago at New York Comic Con with a launch party that served as a benefit for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. The original editor was Valerie Gallaher, who left about five months ago.
The site covered a lot of topics: comics, yes, but also movies, television, games, toys, cosplay, pretty much everything in the larger world of geeky interests. It ran a mix of news, interviews and fannish content like Twitter roundups and five-best posts. In the beginning there were also original comics, although those seem to have fallen by the wayside.
The demise of the site, which arrives less than a month after iFanboy ceased its”normal day-to-day operations,” doesn’t leave MTV without comics coverage: The final post indicates that MTV News will be reporting on NYCC next month.
New York Times bestselling author and Identity Crisis writer Brad Meltzer will host a Google Hangout on Tuesday sponsored by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund for a Banned Books Week discussion, including the censorship of literary material throughout history and how individuals and groups have found ways to combat banned books.
Meltzer is best known in comics for Identity Crisis and the 2006 relaunch of Justice League of America, for which he and artist Gene Ha received an Eisner Award for Best Single Issue. An accomplished novelist, he most recently released the political thriller The Fifth Assassin.
The CBLDF’s Banned Books Heroes Google Hangout takes place September 24 at 8:00 PM Eastern/5:00 PM Pacific. Those interested in joining can RSVP on the Google+ event page.
Paul Allor is turning 35 on Oct. 3, and he’s celebrating by giving a few presents — to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and The Hero Initiative. “It’s my birthday present to two of my favorite service organizations,” Allor says.
The CBLDF helps defend free-speech cases involving comics, while The Hero Initiative provides a safety net for creators who are in need of financial help.
Legal | Egyptian artist Magdy el Shafee, creator of the graphic novel Metro, was arrested by security forces in Cairo and is being held in Tora Prison. The arrests weren’t directly related to his graphic novel, which was banned by the regime of Hosni Mubarak; el Shafee went to Abdel Moneim Riyad Square to try to stop a showdown between protesters and the Muslim Brotherhood, and ended up being arrested in a sweep that rounded up 38 people. [Words Without Borders]
Legal | The local paper profiles Susan Alston, who has been active in the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund since the 1990s and even ran it for a while from the garage of her Northampton, Massachusetts, home. [Masslive.com]
Awards | The 2013 Lynd Ward Prize for Graphic Novel of the Year, presented by Penn State University Libraries and the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, has been awarded to Chris Ware’s Building Stories. The jury’s comment: “Ware’s astute and precise renderings, composed with a tender yet unblinking clinical eye and fleshed out with pristine and evocative coloring, trace the mundane routines and moments of small crisis that his characters inhabit. In so doing, he produces not a document but a monument, a work whose narrative logic is architectural rather than chronological: a set of lives to be encountered, traversed, and returned to as the rooms and floors of a building might be over the years, still sequentially but not in a limited or decided-upon sequence. Stories, here, are meant not to be told but to be built, explored, inhabited—not merely visited but lived in.” [Pennsylvania Center for the Book]
The National Coalition Against Censorship has written to Lee Ann Lowder, deputy counsel for the Board of Education of Chicago, questioning the school district’s authority to remove Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis from seventh-grade classrooms. The letter is signed by NCAC Executive Director Joan Bertin and Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Charles Brownstein, as well as representatives from PEN American Center, the National Council of Teachers of English, and other organizations. I don’t usually find myself on the opposite side of an issue from these folks, but my own opinion is that this case has been overblown.
Here’s the backstory: On March 14, employees showed up at Chicago’s Lane Tech to physically remove Persepolis from classrooms and the library and ensure no one had checked out any copies. This seemed sinister, to say the least, and word spread literally overnight. As parents planned a protest on March 15, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett backtracked and said the book was to be removed from seventh-grade classrooms but not from school libraries. Byrd-Bennett said the district would develop guidelines for teaching the book to juniors and seniors, and possibly in grades eight through 10 as well, but it’s not clear whether the books also were removed from those classrooms.
I think the issue here is really not the removal of Persepolis but rather the way the Chicago Public Schools handled it.
Christjan Bee of Monett, Missouri, has been sentenced to three years in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for possession of obscenity, specifically, comics that depicted children having sexual intercourse with one another and with adults.
The news came in a press release from the U.S. District Attorney’s Office for Western Missouri, which prosecuted the case. According to the prosecutor, Bee’s wife contacted local police in August 2011 and said she had found what she believed to be child pornography on his computer. The police executed a search warrant and seized Bee’s computer:
During the forensic examination of Bee’s computer, a collection of electronic comics, entitled “incest comics,” were discovered on the computer. These comics contained multiple images of minors engaging in graphic sexual intercourse with adults and other minors. The depictions clearly lack any literary, artistic, political or scientific value.
This case is reminiscent of that of Christopher Handley, who also pleaded guilty to possession of drawn images of minors having sex. This is not child pornography, points out Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, because the images are drawn, not photographic.
Brownstein told Robot 6 today that he believes the Bee case wouldn’t hold up in front of a jury, but his comments on the case were limited because the CBLDF was not actually involved; he first heard about it from news reports that Bee had pleaded guilty and, therefore, waived his right to defend himself. Still, Brownstein said, “Even without knowing all the facts, it is an extremely disturbing case.”
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.
If I had $15, I’d line up to get the this year’s CBLDF Liberty Annual #5 (Image, $4.99). I’m an anthology junkie, and this hits that perfectly while also benefiting a good cause. The creator list is amazing – even without knowing who’s working with whom. After that, I’d get Happy #2 (Image, $2.99). This book’s first issue hit me harder than I expected; I was buying it for Grant Morrison to wow me with his writing, but it was Darick Robertson’s artwork that hit me square between the eyes. I’ve read all the issues of Transmetropolitan and most of The Boys, but his art here has graduated up a level and I’m almost salivating at thinking of this second issue. Third this week would be Wolverine and the X-Men #19 (Marvel, $3.99), quietly usurping Uncanny X-Force as my favorite Marvel book on the stands. Last issue’s Doop-centric theme was great for me, but I’m excited to see star pupil Nick Bradshaw back on pencils for this issue.
If I had $30, I’d double back and get Higher Earth, Vol. 1 (Boom!, $14.99) Canceled or not, this series looks interesting despite my bailing after Issue 1. It’s a complicated concept (from what I gleaned from the first issue), but I’m looking to let Humphries school me on this.
If I could splurge, I’d snatch up EC: Wally Wood – Came the Dawn and Other Stories (Fantagraphics, $28.99). I’ve been aware of Wally Wood for a almost two decades now, but I tend to go through periods of simply floating around before I consume and learn more about him in short but voracious periods. Last time it was in the bloom of Fear Agent, and seeing this in Previews a few months back got me jonesing to do it again.