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Banned Books Week to focus on comics and graphic novels

banned-comicsThis year’s Banned Books Week, slated for Sept. 21-27, will spotlight comics and graphic novels, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the Banned Books Week planning committee announced today. Graphic novels have been the subject of a number of library and school challenges over the past few years, and the American Library Association’s most recent list of frequently challenged books includes, incredibly, Jeff Smith’s Bone.

Comics and graphic novels are somewhat more vulnerable to challenges because of their visual nature: While one would actually have to read To Kill a Mockingbird or The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian to find potentially offensive content, all a would-be guardian of morality has to do with comics is flip one open and leaf through the pages looking for Naughty Bits. That’s apparently what happened when the Chicago Public Schools attempted to remove Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis from classrooms; the move was based on a few panels taken out of context.

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Hertfordshire libraries restrict graphic novel borrowing by age

The-Boys_Volume_OneThe public library system in Hertfordshire, England, has restricted who can check out graphic novels that are classified as “adult” — which includes not only mature-reader titles but also comics aimed at a broader audience, such as Batman and The Avengers, according to the local newspaper.

Often, these sorts of stories start with a parent who is outraged to find a child checking out or browsing adult materials. In this case, however, the issue was simply one of proximity: When Louisa de Beaufort brought her two children to the public library in her small town of Harpenden, she noticed that graphic novels of an adult nature were on the other side of the bookshelves that held children’s books. What’s more, mature-readers graphic novels in the adult section were shelved alongside tamer titles.

De Beaufort used her child’s library card to borrow not one but 10 mature titles, including The Boys, Crossing Midnight and Fatale, at a self-checkout station in the library. She then complained to the staff that any child could check out any book.

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Comics A.M. | C2E2 sees growth in attendance, floor space

C2E2

C2E2

Conventions | Lance Fensterman, ReedPOP’s global senior vice president, talks about his company’s strategy of focusing on a few big shows, rather than a lot of smaller ones, and gives the numbers for last month’s Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo: Attendance was about 62,900, up 18 percent from last year, and the show floor grew by 15,000 square feet. Attendees are mostly in the 18-to-35 age group, and the majority are male, although the proportion of women at C2E2 has increased by 6 percent since 2011. Male or female, many of the folks on the floor seem to be “casual consumers” rather than “hardcore fans”: About 50 percent of attendees at New York Comic Con were there for the first time. “Depending on which exhibiting company you’re talking to, they either love it or they’re not sure what to do with it,” Fensterman said. “You’re delivering new readers and new potential consumers. We think it’s cool that you’re getting that fresh perspective, not quite so jaded (been there, done that).” [ICv2]

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S.C. Senate reaches compromise, of sorts, in ‘Fun Home’ feud

Fun Home

Fun Home

The South Carolina Senate on Tuesday overturned punitive budgets cuts of nearly $70,000 against two universities that selected gay-themed books for their reading programs for incoming freshmen, but instead will require the schools to use the money to teach the U.S. Constitution and other historical documents.

According to the Charleston Post and Courier, Republican Sen. Larry Grooms proposed the compromise after Democrats last week blocked a vote on a House proposal that would trim $52,000 from the College of Charleston and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate for selecting Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic novel Fun Home and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, about South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show, respectively. The figures represent the amount each school spent on last year’s programs.

Grooms’ amendment redirects that money to programs “related to instruction in the provisions and principles of the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers, including the study of and devotion to American institutions and ideals.” It also ensures students who object to the reading material can opt out with no negative consequences.

The newspaper reports the amendment was approved by voice vote, which means there’s no record of the number of ayes and nos. The Senate and House will now have to agree on which version of the state budget to adopt.

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As filibuster delays ‘Fun Home’ vote, a potential compromise emerges

fun home2Staging a nearly four-hour filibuster, a South Carolina Senate Democrat on Wednesday delayed a vote on proposed budget cuts to two state universities in retaliation for selecting gay-themed books for their summer reading programs.

Although the Senate had been expected to resume debate on Thursday, that never happened. Instead, the Charleston Post and Courier reports the senator behind the filibuster, Brad Hutto of Orangeburg, said there’s a deal in the works that could allow legislators to move past the impasse.

The South Carolina House of Representatives in March approved a state budget that would cut $52,000 from the College of Charleston and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate for selecting Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, about South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show, respectively. The figures represent the amount each school spent on last year’s programs.

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SC Senate panel rejects bid to punish colleges over gay-themed books

fun home2A South Caroline Senate committee on Wednesday rejected a plan to cut the budgets of two state universities as punishment for selecting gay-themed books, including Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home, for their summer-reading programs.

The Associated Press reports that although Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler recommended adopting the House’s $70,000 cuts, the Finance Committee voted 11-7 against the proposal. However, matter is expected to resurface next week as the full Senate takes up the state budget.

In early March the House approved a budget that would slice $52,000 from the College of Charleston and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate for recommending Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, about South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show, respectively. The figures represent the amount each school spent on last year’s programs.

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Bechdel & Co. are bringing ‘Fun Home’ musical to South Carolina

Fun Home Public Theater/Newman Theater

In the wake of the uproar in South Carolina over her graphic memoir Fun Home, cartoonist Alison Bechdel has joined with the producers and cast of the musical adaptation to bring the acclaimed off-Broadway show to the College of Charleston.

The Post and Courier reports tickets went on sale Tuesday for two concert-version performances to be held April 21 at Memminger Auditorium; about 750 were sold within the first 24 hours. The show, which premiered in September, was announced this week as finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

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Jeff Smith’s ‘Bone’ among most challenged books of 2013

Bone: Out From BonevilleBone, Jeff Smith’s critically acclaimed fantasy adventure about three cousins swept up in epic populated by dragons, rat creatures and evil forces, was among the books most frequently challenged last year in schools and libraries.

The news comes from the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, which has released its annual Top 10 List of Frequently Challenged Books as part of National Library Week. In 2013, the organization received 307 reports on attempts to remove or restrict materials from library bookshelves and school curricula across the United States. That’s down from 464 official challenges in 2012.

Bone came in at No. 10 on the list, which was led once again by Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series and populated by the likes of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eyes and Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (see the full rundown below). The last comic to make the list was Kim Dong Hwa’s The Color of Earth in 2011.

The ALA’s 2014 State of American Libraries Report doesn’t cite specific challenges to Bone or reveal how many there have been, but it does offer broad reasons for the objections: “political viewpoint, racism, violence.”

Although the challenges last year apparently failed to attract media attention, there was a good deal of coverage of complaint filed in 2010 by a parent in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, objecting to the depictions of drinking, smoking, gambling and sexual situations in Bone. However, a school district committee voted 10-1 to keep the books on library shelves. (There’s a Comic Book Legal Defense Fund case study, if you’re interested.)

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Comics A.M. | Carol, Kamala and a changing superhero landscape

Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel

Comics | Tammy Oler considers the roles of Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel within a growing movement to make superhero comics more diverse: “The devoted fans in the Carol Corps and Kamala Korps view themselves as part of a movement for a bigger and more diverse comic book universe, and it seems like publishers might finally be starting to pay attention. Both Ms. Marvel and the rebooted Captain Marvel are part of Marvel NOW!, an effort by the publisher to attract new readers by providing a lot of accessible places for new readers to jump on board with ongoing series. (DC Comics has done something similar with its New 52 initiative.) Marvel and DC have also taken some steps to address their lack of superhero diversity, in part by launching some new female solo titles, including Black Widow, She-Hulk, and Elektra. Of course, there’s a whole world of mainstream and indie publishers beyond Marvel and DC, but the big two still matter the most because they create the pantheon of superheroes that make it into movie theatres and onto the racks of Halloween costumes at Target.” [Slate.com]

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Comics A.M. | Protesters rally against cuts to SC colleges

fun home2Graphic novels | An estimated 200 students, faculty and community members gathered Saturday at the College of Charleston in South Carolina to protest proposed budget cuts to that school and the University of South Carolina Upstate in retaliation for selecting gay-themed books — including Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home — for their summer reading programs. The South Carolina House of Representatives approved a proposal early this month that would slash $52,000 cut from the College of Charleston and $17,142 for USC Upstate, which represent what each school spent on the programs. The budget is now before the state Senate. [The Post and Courier]

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Comics A.M. | Algerian cartoonist seeks asylum in France

Djamel Ghanem

Djamel Ghanem

Legal | Algerian cartoonist Djamel Ghanem is seeking asylum in France as the prosecution and plaintiff appeal his acquittal on charges that he insulted Algeria’s president in an unpublished cartoon drawn for the newspaper Voix d’Oranie. The newspaper brought the criminal charges against Ghanem; in possibly related news, Ghanem is suing his employer for seven years’ unpaid wages. Ghanem now claims Algeria wants to make an example of him. [Radio France International, Ennahar Online]

Conventions | Mark Rahner, who has been going to Emerald City Comicon since the first one in 2003, initially as a reporter and then as a creator, talks about why the event has grown so big (75,000 attendees are expected this weekend) and why it’s still awesome anyway. [Seattle Weekly]

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Saudi Arabia bans ‘The 99′ animated series

the99The government of Saudi Arabia has banned the animated adaptation of the comic The 99, saying its representations of Allah’s names and attributes cannot be tolerated.

Based on Islamic concepts but intended by creator Naif Al-Mutawa to promote universal values, the comic features 99 ordinary teenagers and adults from across the globe who become imbued with magical powers. The title and premise refers to the 99 names and attributes of Allah.

According to Dubai’s Gulf News, Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta issued its decision in response to a complaint about the series’ broadcast on the Saudi-owned television channel MBC3.

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Japanese school board pulls ‘Barefoot Gen’ from libraries

Barefoot_Gen_volume_oneFor the second time in less than two years, a Japanese school board has removed Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen from school libraries.

The manga is a semi-fictional account of Nakazawa’s experiences during and after the bombing of Hiroshima, and in recent years it has come under attack from some conservatives because of its portrayal of postwar Japan.

In this case, Mayor Hiroyasu Chiyomatsu of Izumisano in Osaka Prefecture told the local school board that the books were problematic not because of the story but because they use outdated and possibly pejorative terms for poor, homeless or mentally ill people.

“Rather than the overall content of the manga, I thought the problem was with certain discriminatory expressions,” Chiyomatsu said. “Because the city of Izumisano as a whole has emphasized human rights education, I told the board of education that there may be a need to provide individual guidance to those students who read the manga.”

The head of the school board, Tatsuhiro Nakafuji, issued a directive in November telling schools to “move the manga from the library to the principal’s office so children cannot lay eyes on it.” Not all schools immediately complied, so in January they were instructed to turn over their copies to the board of education. The initial plan called for the board to return the books on March 20, once schools had come up with some way to provide “guidance” regarding the language in question.

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CBLDF, other groups urge SC Senate to restore funding to colleges

fun home2Funding cuts proposed to punish two South Carolina universities for selecting gay-themed books for their summer reading programs could open the door to First Amendment lawsuits, 10 free-speech advocacy groups caution members of the state Senate.

The state House last week approved a budget that would slice $52,000 from the College of Charleston and $17,142 from the University of South Carolina Upstate for recommending Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, about South Carolina’s first gay and lesbian radio show, respectively. The figures represent the amount each school spent on last year’s program.

With the state budget now in the hands of the Senate, a coalition that includes the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the ACLU of South Carolina sent a letter on Tuesday urging the Senate Finance Committee to reject the cuts, warning, “Penalizing state educational institutions financially simply because members of the legislature disapprove of specific elements of the educational program is educationally unsound and constitutionally suspect: it threatens academic freedom and the quality of education in the state, and could well expose the state to potential liability on First Amendment grounds.”

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Allah reference triggered Malaysia’s Ultraman comic ban

A Malaysian government official confirmed today that the comic Ultraman the Ultra Power was banned because it contains translated text that refers to one of the characters as “Allah,” the Arabic word for God, which could confuse young readers and offend Muslims.

“It’s stated that Ultraman King is Allah, so that is wrong for Muslims because Allah is not Ultraman King,” Hashimah Nik Jaafar, the Home Ministry’s secretary of Publication and Quranic Texts Control Division, told The Malay Mail. “It’s stated that Ultraman King is Allah, so that is wrong for Muslims because Allah is not Ultraman King. We have banned that because it can create confusion among children who read this caption. “They might think Ultraman King is Allah, which is wrong for Muslims because Allah is not to be visualized in any way.”

The offending sentence reportedly is, “He is considered, and respected as, ‘Allah’ or the Elder of all Ultra heroes.”

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