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58 years ago, one Illinois city cleared out ‘unhealthy’ comics

Gene Autry Comics #94 (December 1954)

It was January 1955. Dwight D. Eisenhower was in the White House, Adventures of Superman was on television, and in sleepy Galesburg, Illinois (population 31,425), the local Exchange Club had seized upon one goal: the eradication of comic books that might fuel juvenile delinquency.

Writing for The Register-Mail, Galesburg County Library archivist Patty Mosher delves 58 years into the city’s past when, spurred by a National Exchange Club circular, the men of the local service organization set off to root out objectionable publications that targeted children and teens.

Sure, the “Galesburg cleanup,” as it became known, wasn’t as flashy as the mass burnings of comic books seven years earlier in Binghampton, New York, or as officious as the Cincinnati Parents Committee’s annual ratings reports.

But by gosh, it was well-organized!

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Comics A.M. | Turkey lifts ban on thousands of books (and a comic)

Legal

Censorship | At least one comic, alas unnamed, was among the thousands of books removed this week from a Turkish government restricted list. Most of the bans were widely ignored anyway, but Metin Celal Zeynioglu, the head of Turkey’s publishers’ union, pointed out one important effect of lifting them: “Many of the students arrested in demonstrations are kept in prison because they’re carrying banned books. From now on, we won’t be able to use that as an excuse.” [The Australian]

Publishing | Tom Spurgeon’s latest holiday interview is with Shannon Watters, the editor of BOOM! Studios’ children’s comics line, which includes Adventure Time, Bravest Warriors and Peanuts. [The Comics Reporter]

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Comics A.M. | Mary & Bryan Talbot win Costa; Tardi refuses top honor

Dotter of Her Father's Eyes

Awards | Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, by Mary and Bryan Talbot, has won the Costa Book Awards (formerly the Whitbread Awards) in the biography category, marking the first time a graphic novel has received the literary prize. “Just being shortlisted was amazing and hearing we’d won the category was stunning,” Mary Talbot said. “We’re delighted of course, both personally – it’s the first story I’ve had published – but also for the medium, I can’t believe a graphic novel has won.” [The Guardian]

Awards | Jacques Tardi, the acclaimed creator of West Coast Blues, It Was the War of the Trenches and the Adèle Blanc-Sec series, has refused France’s highest honor, the Legion d’Honneur medal: “Being fiercely attached to my freedom of thought and creativity, I do not want to receive anything, neither from this government or from any other political power whatsoever. I am therefore refusing this medal with the greatest determination.” [AFP]

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South Carolina library pulls Alan Moore’s Neonomicon

The director of the Greenville County Public Library system in South Carolina has decided to remove Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Neonomicon from library shelves following a patron complaint — even though her own board recommended that the book continue to be available.

The trouble started in June, when a parent allowed her 14-year-old daughter to check out the book, which was shelved in the adult section. “It looked like a murder mystery comic book to me,” Carrie Gaske said at the time. “It looked like a child’s book. I flipped through it, and thought it was OK for her to check out.”

Neonomicon is, of course, not a child’s book, as Gaske learned when her daughter asked the meaning of a “nasty” word. Gaske then gave the graphic novel a second look and saw that it included explicit sexual content. “I feel that has the same content of Hustler or Playboy or things like that,” she told local media. “Maybe even worse.” Gaske filed an official challenge to the book, and it was removed from circulation while the library’s internal committee discussed it.

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Comics A.M. | This weekend, it’s Long Beach, Tucson & Rhode Island comic cons

Long Beach Comic Con

Conventions | Creators like Neal Adams, Tim Bradstreet, Howard Chaykin, Amanda Conner and Scott Lobdell will headline the Long Beach Comic & Horror Con, held Saturday and Sunday at the Long Beach Convention Center. “I think most of our artists are thrilled to come back each year,” said Phil Lawrence, principal sales director for the event. “This is the earliest we sold out our Artists Alley and we have almost 190 tables. By focusing on the artists and giving them their due, they seem to keep coming back and signing up earlier — and they promote the show, which helps us out, too.” [Gazettes.com]

Conventions | Tucson Comic-Con may be small, but it puts comics — not other entertainment — front and center. [Arizona Daily Star]

Conventions | Also up this week: Rhode Island Comic Con, which doesn’t eschew the other media but boasts RISD alumnus Walt Simonson as the headline guest. [The Providence Phoenix]

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Library director refuses to restrict access to yaoi manga

Occasionally we see public clashes between the mandate of public libraries to serve everyone without restricting access to books and the desire of parents and caregivers to keep children from seeing sexually explicit material they aren’t ready for.

The most recent incident involves a 10-year-old girl who checked out a stack of manga that included the second volume of Makoto Tateno’s Hero Heel from the White Center Library, just south of Seattle. The book had a parental advisory mark on the front cover (applied by the publisher, not the library) and was rated 18+ (again, by the publisher) on the back cover, but there was no family member watching what the girl checked out; her grandmother dropped her off at the library and waited in the car until she came out with her books. Her uncle, Travis De Nevers, found the book after she brought it home and wrote to the library, saying:

How can it be that a young girl can check-out this book? Why would it even be located in a place where children would have easy access to it? It was by chance that I happened to pick up the book from a pile of her library books and noticed the label.

I do not want this to happen again to my niece or other children. I am asking that you review your check-out practices and make the changes necessary to prevent it. Please send me a response detailing your steps to correct this serious situation.

(Note: The linked post includes fuzzy but NSFW scans from the book.)

“I don’t think he was objecting to us having it so much as how we are protecting kids her age from encountering things that might be difficult,” Bill Ptacek, director of the King County Library System, said in an interview with Robot 6. “Our response was, we are not in the business of policing what anybody gets. We adhere strongly to the idea of free and open access; we do expect either parents or caregivers to be actively engaged and be sure they are comfortable [with their children's choices].”

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Comics A.M. | Belgian comics revival? Craig Thompson in Jordan

From "Garden Raiders," by Juliette Etrivert

Publishing | Belgium, birthplace of Tintin and the Smurfs, is beginning to see its government-funded efforts to revive the country’s once-thriving comics scene pay off, with small publishing houses, self-publishers and digital comics portals springing up. [Deutsche Welle]

Creators | Habibi creator Craig Thompson posts an account of his recent trip to Jordan, which coincided with the troubles in Libya. Disconcertingly, he learned that Habibi is banned there, but his experiences in the schools and studios he visited stand in stark contrast to what the rest of us were watching—and even what he experienced while traveling from place to place. (Craig also gives a shout-out to a couple who got engaged while waiting in line to see him at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC; the groom-to-be concealed the ring in a hollowed-out copy of Blankets.) [Craig Thompson]

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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. | Kirby4Heroes campaign to benefit The Hero Initiative

Jack Kirby

Organizations | Jillian Kirby, the 16-year-old granddaughter of Jack Kirby, makes a pitch for Kirby4Heroes, a campaign to encourage donations to The Hero Initiative on Aug. 28, which would have been the legendary creator’s 95th birthday. [Los Angeles Times]

Comics | Roger Rautio, who’s spearheading an effort to establish a physical Comic Book Hall of Fame, said he’s received responses from officials in four cities — Chicago, Cleveland, New York City and San Jose — and he may meet with a Chicago city council member as early as next month. [North Country Now]

Creators | Cartoonist Reinhard Kleist discusses his graphic novel The Boxer, the true story of  Polish Jew Harry Haft, who had to fight other prisoners at Auschwitz for the entertainment of the Nazi soldiers. [Deutsche Welle]

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CBLDF, other organizations defend Alan Moore’s Neonomicon

In one of the dumbest library challenges ever, Carrie Gaske of Greenville County, South Carolina, earlier this month caused Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Neonomicon to be pulled from the shelves of the Greenville County library system after her 14-year-old daughter checked the book out and Gaske discovered it contained adult material.

The horror graphic novel was shelved, appropriately, in the adult section. Minors over 13 can check out adult books with a parent’s permission, so Gaske skimmed through the book, saw nothing offensive, assumed it would be a children’s book anyway because it’s a comic, and allowed her daughter to check it out. It wasn’t until they got home, and the daughter asked the meaning of an unfamiliar word, that Gaske realized it actually was an adult graphic novel and flipped out. She has challenged the book, and the library has removed it from circulation so a committee can review it. In other words: The library classified the book appropriately as an adult book, Gaske chose to ignore that classification, and now she wants to put it off limits to everyone.

On Monday, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund teamed with the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression to write a letter to the Board of Trustees of the Greenville Public Library calling for the book’s return to the shelves. The letter points out that withdrawing the book, even temporarily, infringes the First Amendment rights of all the adults who use the library.

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Two editorial cartoonists honored for courage

Ali Ferzat after his attack (via the Washington Post/Facebook)

Ali Ferzat after his attack (via the Washington Post/Facebook)

The Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) has bestowed the 2012 Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award on two artists who have experienced persecution for their work, Syrian Ali Ferzat and Indian Aseem Trivedi.

Ferzat, who is 60 years old, has been a cartoonist for many years, but he didn’t encounter trouble until 2011, when he drew a number of cartoons critical of dictator Bashar Al-Assad’s brutal suppression of the democracy movement. Syrian security forces abducted Ferzat and beat him, deliberately breaking both his hands. This did not silence him; on the contrary, he went public about the abuse, and his work is available (in Arabic) at his website. He also has a Facebook page.

Trivedi is the force behind the Cartoons Against Corruption website, which collects editorial cartoons protesting against not only government corruption but also attacks on free speech, including restrictions on the internet. Trivedi was charged with treason and “insulting national symbols” for this, but he nonetheless remains active in the free speech movement in India.

CRNI will present the awards during the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists convention in September.

Iranian lawmaker withdraws complaint that led to cartoonist’s lashing sentence

Journalist Saeed Kamali Dehghan tweeted this morning:

Iranian MP who brought a case against a cartoonist, which resulted in a sentence of 25 lashes, has withdrawn his complaint – Fars #Iran

No other details are available at the moment, but it’s clear the move was backfiring on lawmaker Ahmad Lofti Ashtiani, who brought the complaint about cartoonist Mahmoud Shokraye’s depiction of him in a soccer uniform (the Iranian government has been criticized lately for meddling in sports). Iran’s “media law” court last week sentenced Shokraye to 25 lashes, a move that has drawn a growing chorus of protest both inside and outside Iran. “Iran’s online community has taken to social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook to express anger,” the Guardian reports, and cartoonists have been calling on other cartoonists to draw even more caricatures of Ashtiani. The Guardian has a gallery of Ashtiani cartoons by Iranian and non-Iranian creators, including their own cartoonist Martin Rowson’s depiction of him as a big baby.

Eurasia Review quotes prominent Iranian cartoonist Masooud Shojai Tabatabai, who gives a more nuanced view of the situation in Iran:

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Comics A.M. | Tunisian broadcaster fined for airing Persepolis

Persepolis

Legal | A Tunisian court last week convicted Nessma TV President Nebil Karoui of “disturbing public order” and “threatening public morals” by broadcasting the animated adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, which features a scene that briefly shows an image of God. The Oct. 7 airing resulted in an attempted arson attack on the network’s offices and the arrest of some 50 protesters. Karoui was fined $1,600 by the five-judge panel; two members of his staff were fined $800 each. Prosecutors and attorneys representing Islamist groups pushed for Karoui to be sentenced to up to five years in prison. Others argued for the death penalty. [The Washington Post]

Business | Target will stop selling Amazon’s Kindle devices in its stores over a dispute regarding “showrooming,” where consumers check out a product at Target stores and then go home to buy it on Amazon for a cheaper price. Around Christmas, Amazon’s Price Check app gave shoppers a 5 percent discount on any item scanned at a retail store. “What we aren’t willing to do is let online-only retailers use our brick-and-mortar stores as a showroom for their products and undercut our prices,” Target executives wrote in a letter to vendors. Target will continue to carry Apple’s iPad, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and the Aluratek Libre. [The New York Times]

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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.

Comics A.M. | Arizona legislature passes bill censoring electronic speech

Arizona state flag

Legal | The Arizona legislature passed a sweeping bill last week that would make it a crime to communicate via electronic means speech that is intended to “annoy,” “offend,” “harass” or “terrify.” While the law was intended to update the state’s telephone harassment laws to encompass the Internet, it’s not limited to one-to-one communications and thus, as the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund notes, could criminalize “all manner of writing, cartoons, and other protected material the state finds offensive or annoying.” Media Coalition, a trade association that includes the CBLDF among its members, has sent a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer urging her to veto the bill. [Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Media Coalition]

Passings | Rex Babin, editorial cartoonist for the Sacramento Bee and a Pulitzer Prize finalist, has died of cancer. [The Daily Cartoonist]

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