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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.
Today is Free Comic Book Day, and here’s a rundown of some of the comics that caught my interest. If you want to check ‘em out before you go, CBR has previews of many of the FCBD titles. (My FCBD comics came from my favorite Boston comics shop, Comicopia.)
Hands down, the one comic everybody wants is Archaia’s hardback anthology, which includes brand-new stories from six of their titles: Mouse Guard, Labyrinth, Return of the Dapper Men, Rust, Cursed Pirate Girl, and Cow Boy. The stories stand on their own but also tie in to the books in clever ways; the Mouse Guard story is a puppet show, and the Rust story features a boy writing a letter to his father (as his older brother does in the book). This book is a keeper; it even has a nameplate inside the front cover. Here’s a list of where Archaia creators will be doing book signings this FCBD.
BOOM! Studios has a nice flipbook with several Adventure Time comics on one side and Peanuts on the other. The Peanuts comics are mildly funny, but the Adventure Time side is edgier and features extra stories by Lucy Knisley and Michael DeForge. The stories are colorful and lively, and DeForge’s contribution, about a bacon ecosystem that supports tiny breakfast organisms, is downright surreal.
Here’s an opportunity to do good by doing something awesome: The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is launching Comics College, a series of “Master Sessions” on the craft and business of comics, led by well-known professionals. The campus is the CBLDF offices in New York; the first class is on Saturday, Sept. 17, and will feature Fred Van Lente (Action Philosophers, Incredible Hercules) and Greg Pak (Incredible Hercules, Incredible Hulk) discussing the ins and outs of self-publishing.
Can’t make it to NYC? You can still kick in and support the CBLDF by bidding on some of the pieces in their eBay auction, which ends on Sunday.
Or you could, you know, just give them some cash. But this is more fun.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is holding an art auction tonight in San Diego to raise money for their various programs, but even if you can’t attend the live auction, you can still bid on some really nice art (like the above Snarked image by Roger Langridge). But you’ll need to hurry — bids will only be accepted until 1 p.m. Pacific today. You can find complete details, including a list of what’s up for auction, on the CBLDF site or after the jump.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has been very busy lately, fighting censorship laws and border searches, as well as launching an advertising campaign. So they’ve got a lot planned for Comic-Con this year, with plenty of chances for fans to help contribute to their cause.
Here’s a quick rundown of their merchandise, art auctions and more:
You can check out the Graphitti Designs shirts after the jump.
Last week we reported that the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund was raising money to aid the defense of an American man who faces criminal child pornography charges in Canada because of manga found on his laptop by Canadian customs. This week, the Supreme Court struck down a California law regulating video games in a case in which the CBLDF had filed a friend-of-the-court brief. Today, a federal district court barred enforcement of an Alaska statute that would have made it a criminal offense to post material online that is “harmful to minors”; the CBLDF was one of the plaintiffs in that case. That’s a big week!
I asked Executive Director Charles Brownstein for a followup on the Canada case, and the news about the Alaska case broke while we were exchanging e-mails. Here is his answer in full, including an update on fund-raising for the manga case.
It’s been a momentous week for the CBLDF. Last Friday we announced our decision to build a coalition to aid an American traveler facing prison time in Canada and registering as a sex offender for traveling with comics on his laptop. On Monday we received news that the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down a California law that would have made violence a new category of unprotected speech by banning the sale and display of violent video games, and that Justice Scalia cited our amicus brief as part of his majority decision. And just today news arrived that we successfully helped knock out an Alaska law that would have placed severe restrictions on internet speech.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is getting some help from one of our favorites, Brandon Graham, who provided them not only a piece of King City original art to auction off, but also seven copies of Escalator, a collection of his early short stories. Each volume carries a CBLDF signature plate that Graham tagged with a custom full-color sketch and signature.
You can find all these items and more — including some sweet signed Amanda Conner prints — on the CBLDF’s eBay page.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and The Beat are hosting a party in New York Saturday night featuring a wide array of guests who worked on Marvel’s Strange Tales anthologies, with proceeds benefiting the CBLDF. You can find complete details after the jump or in the above flyer by Paul Maybury.
“Something about this poster really rubs me the wrong way (and it ain’t just the daisy dukes wedgie). People can draw whatever they want and Frank Quietly is a great artist, but honestly this makes me want to avoid that event like the plague.”—Lisa Hanawalt
“I think if this flyer wasn’t representing a girl cartoonist I would not be annoyed like I am now. I’m just mildly annoyed. Also it made me laugh a lot because the women cartoonists I know are way sexier than that.”—Domatille Collardey
The cartoonists behind such books as I Want You and What Had Happened Was… respectively take issue on their Twitter accounts with the promotional art for a rare stateside appearance by Batman and Robin artist Frank Quitely tomorrow night, the proceeds from which will be donated to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Please note that neither person is saying it’s the worst thing in the world or that Quitely’s some kind of creep, just that it’s an odd and off-putting choice of image for the event. I was taken aback by it myself, and I say that as someone who admires Quitely’s art generally and his sexy-ish art specifically. Maybe it’s the visible underwear, giving me flashbacks to every superhero artist who’s drawn some poor woman’s thong sticking out of her jeans? Or maybe, as Collardey argues, it has something to do with the fact that the woman in question is, apparently, a cartoonist herself? This also makes me wonder how much our reaction to a given image has to do with who made it. If this had been done by, say, Greg Horn, would I be at all tempted to defend it? Does the quality of the artist’s overall body of work, or even of his depictions of women in particular aside from this one image, factor into the equation? Am I using rhetorical questions in order to avoid taking a coherent position?
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund will be at WonderCon this weekend (booth #323) with a lot of cool stuff that Frank Quitely fans should dig. First up is a stunning print, above, that they’ll sell for $20, along with a signed and numbered black and white facsimile edition of the original art that’ll cost you a $50 donation. It’s limited to just 50 pieces
In addition, they’ll have two sets of CBLDF Signature Series postcards. Each set is a $10 donation, with one set featuring Quitely’s full-color character designs and the other set featuring some of his figure sketches.
Although he’s constantly at work, every new bit of Paul Pope art that’s released is like catnip for a certain section of comic fans — including me.
So it comes with particular delight to not only receive news that the artist is doing a new fine art print for CBLDF, but that he did a process video showing how it was made as well as talking about why he’s doing it for CBLDF. Here’s the video:
As we noted late last year, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has been tracking trends in both the United States and abroad that show customs authorities searching and in some cases seizing computers and other electronic devices that had adult comics material stored on them. Today the CBLDF released an advisory prepared by their legal counsel, Robert Corn-Revere, titled “Legal Hazards of Crossing International Borders with Comic Book Art.”
“Most people do not know that their constitutional rights are not guaranteed, even from U.S. Customs agents, when they cross international borders,” Corn-Revere said. “Their books, papers, laptop computers, and even cell phones are subject to routine search and possible seizure by the government, even without any suspicion of criminal activity. This is important to know in an age when many people carry with them a great deal of highly personal information in electronic form.”
The document offers an overview on Immigrations and Customs Enforcement policies and how border searches lack traditional legal protection. It also offers suggestions on avoiding intrusive searches. The CBLDF Advisory is available as a Word document and a PDF file.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is using the funding site Kickstarter to raise money to publish a Transmetropolitan art book. Transmetropolitan, for those who may not be familiar with it, was a Vertigo series that starred Spider Jerusalem, a gonzo journalist in a depraved future, who, along with his assistants and a three-eyed cat, battled corrupt politicians, crazy cults and castrated police officers. Written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Darick Robertson, the book was published from 1997 to 2002.
Both creators are participating in the new art book, with Robertson providing a cover and Ellis a foreword. In addition, the book will include artwork by Cliff Chiang, Cully Hamner, Milo Manara, Jeff Lemire, Sam Kieth and many more.
Susan Auġér, the project manager for the art book, and Charles Brownstein, executive director of the CBLDF, were kind enough to answer my questions about the project.
JK: Where did the initial idea to do a benefit book come from?
Susan: A fan approached Darick Robertson’s table at Emerald City Comic Con, the best comics convention out there to meet and greet with creators. Darick agreed that it was a good idea, and the plan took shape shortly after that. You could say it was the perfect jumping off point: a book suggested by a fan, populated by many fans, produced for the fans.
Charles: Shortly after Darick appeared to benefit the CBLDF at WonderCon last year, we sparked up a correspondence with Susan, who had been organizing a project involving a variety of great pieces inspired by Darick and Warren’s iconic series. She did the legwork to get approval from DC Comics to make this book happen as a benefit for CBLDF, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it. There’s some great stuff coming through, and we’re gonna be thrilled to see it, to spread the word, and to do some good for people in comics with the funds that come from it.
If you’re planning on traveling abroad this holiday season, you may want to be wary of what comics you’re bringing on your computer, phone or other device. During a call with his fellow Comic Book Legal Defense Fund board members yesterday, writer Neil Gaiman tweeted about a trend the CBLDF has been watching: “On @CBLDF Board of Directors call. Just learning about Customs officers confiscating computers because they didn’t like the comics on them.”
According to Executive Director Charles Brownstein, both the CBLDF and the American Civil Liberties Union have been tracking the trend.
“The CBLDF legal team has been tracking trends in customs here in the U.S. and abroad that show authorities searching, and,in some cases, seizing the computers, portable devices, storage devices, and other items of travelers who have adult comics material stored on those devices,” Brownstein told Comic Book Resources. “The ACLU is tracking similar customs abuses from a privacy point of view. There’s a recent incident about which we’re not at liberty to discuss specifics involving this trend, where we were asked to provide information and letters of support. Because this is a pending matter, I’m not at liberty to discuss further specifics at this time.”
He added that in response, the CBLDF is working on a “best practices” document for comic fans going through customs. “This document will cover what they need to know to help mitigate their risks in this area,” Brownstein said. “We plan to issue this document in the first quarter of 2011.”