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Calling Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home “pornographic,” a conservative Christian group in South Carolina is criticizing the College of Charleston’s selection of the acclaimed graphic novel as recommended reading for incoming freshmen. The school, however, is standing by its choice.
The Eisner Award-winning 2006 memoir, which details Bechdel’s childhood with her closeted gay father, his apparent suicide and her own coming out as a lesbian, is part of the annual “The College Reads!” program, which provides free copies of the selected works to full-time faculty and new students. The books aren’t required reading.
However, Fun Home was labeled “A Shocking Summer Reading Assignment” by Palmetto Family, an advocacy group whose “vision is to transform the culture in South Carolina by reclaiming the values and virtues of marriage, the traditional family model and sexual purity.”
“If this book were a magazine it would be wrapped in brown paper,” Palmetto Family President Oran Smith is quoted as saying. “We reviewed every book assigned in SC this year. Many were provocative. This one is pornographic. Not a wise choice for 18-year-olds at a taxpayer-supported college.”
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund will help kick off Comic-Con International in San Diego on July 18 with a welcome party featuring top creators, artwork and exclusive merchandise.
Sponsored by Image Comics, comiXology and Aces Weekly, the event starts at 8 p.m. at the Westgate Hotel (1055 Second Ave., San Diego) with confirmed guests John Layman, David Lloyd, Nick Pitarra, Paul Pope, Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare and Nick Spencer (with many more expected). Here’s a breakdown of some of the party’s offerings:
Retailer Things From Another World has again partnered with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund for the charity’s auction at Comic-Con International. For the fifth annual event, creators ranging from Jill Thompson and Jonathan Case to Roger Langridge and Charlie Adlard have donated artwork in an effort to raise more than $100,000 for the CBLDF.
Some five dozen artists are participating; you can see some of the artwork below and on the TFAW website. You can bid July 20 during the CBLDF Auction at Comic-Con.
Valiant Entertainment not only became a corporate member of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund this week, but also debuted a variant cover edition of Quantum and Woody #1 that will be sold at Comic-Con International in San Diego next month to benefit the organization.
Drawn by Tony Millionaire of Maakies and Sock Monkey fame, the Quantum and Woody #1 CBLDF Liberty Variant will be limited to 750 copies. It’ll only be sold at the CBLDF’s booth at San Diego and via the CBLDF website.
Check out the full cover below.
Business | Following weeks (if not months) of rumblings, Warner Bros. has made it official: Jeff Robinov, the Warner Bros. Pictures Group president who oversaw the 2009 restructuring of DC Comics into DC Entertainment, will leave the studio following a reorganization that establishes a new leadership team: Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing and distribution, Greg Silverman, president of creative development and worldwide production, and Toby Emmerich, president and chief operating officer of New Line Cinema. It doesn’t appear as if Robinov will be replaced. DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson, who initially reported Robinov, presumably will answer directly to Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara; following a shakeup last month in the television and home entertainment division, Nelson reported to both Robinov and Tsujihara. [The Hollywood Reporter]
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.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund joined the Kids’ Right to Read Project and the National Coalition for Censorship in urging Chicago Public Schools to return Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis to seventh- through 10th-grade classrooms.
The award-winning graphic was pulled Wednesday afternoon from Lane Tech College Prep ahead of a district-wide ban, sparking outcry from teachers, faculty and students, some of whom planned a protest Friday afternoon. Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett then ordered principals to disregard the earlier directive, leaving Persepolis in libraries but asking that the book not be taught in seventh-grade classrooms — it was previously part of the curriculum — “due to the powerful images of torture.”
The memoir recounting Satrapi’s childhood in Iran during the Islamic revolution is also under review for grades eight through 10. A Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman said the initial directive was sent by district staff following concerns raised by teachers at Austin-North Lawndale, but it didn’t reflect the intent of the administration.
In the letter to Byrd-Bennett and the board of education, the National Coalition Against Censorship wrote, “While we are relieved that the book will remain available to older students, the restriction on access for junior high school students is extremely troubling. The title character of Satrapi’s book is herself the age of junior high school students, and her description of her real-life experiences might well have special relevance to them. The explanation that the book is ‘inappropriate’ for this age group is unpersuasive. The vast majority of Chicago middle school students are surely aware of the reality of violence and its devastating effects on people of all ages. Most have witnessed it on the news, if not in their own neighborhoods.To remove this book because of objections to its content is impermissible under the First Amendment.”
Read the full letter below.
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.”
The popular owner of Legends in Rome, Georgia, Lee was arrested in 2004 after participating in a trick-or-treat event in which thousands of comics were given away for free. Among the books was Alternative Comics #2, which contained an excerpt from Nick Bertozzi’s graphic novel The Salon depicting a nude Pablo Picasso in a non-sexual context. The comic accidentally was given to a minor, whose parents filed a complaint with the police. Although Lee acknowledged the mistake and offered to make a public apology, he was arrested and charged with two felony counts of distributing material depicting nudity or sexual content and five misdemeanor counts of unlawful disposition of materials to minors. Several of those counts didn’t name victims.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund became involved with the case in early 2005, challenging the constitutionality of the law as well as the counts that didn’t name victims. Subsequently, the felony charges and two misdemeanor counts were dropped. However, the case trudged on, with charges dropped and then refiled, hearings postponed and then, in November 2007, a mistrial was declared before opening statements could be finished. Finally, in April 2008, Lee’s case was dismissed entirely.
Passings | Dr. Michael J. Vassallo notes the passing of Marion Sitton, who drew romance, crime and Western comics for Timely and Atlas (earlier incarnations of Marvel) as well as Fawcett, Quality and other publishers. He was 92. [Timely-Atlas-Comics]
Publishing | Heidi MacDonald interviews Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson, who was selected by readers of The Beat as the Comics Industry Person of the Year. [The Beat]
Organizations | Babymouse creator Jennifer L. Holm has joined the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund board of directors. [CBLDF]
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.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund announced this morning that the Gaiman Foundation, a nonprofit corporation established earlier this year by Neil Gaiman, has donated $60,000 for the organization’s education program. The author, who recently retired after more than a decade on the CBLDF board of directors, was described as instrumental in establishing the group’s educational initiatives.
“Part of the CBLDF’s purpose is educational,” Gaiman said in a statement, “and in dealing with the ongoing emergencies of arrested comics readers and comic store staff, corporate attacks on creators, rescuing people who had run afoul of law enforcement bodies who want to limit their freedom to read and the like, it was too easy for that part of the remit to come in last. From my perspective, educating readers, creators, retailers and publishers is the most important thing we can do, because it gives us long term change.”
According to the CBLDF, the Gaiman Foundation gift will help fund such initiatives as the Kids Right to Read Project and Banned Books Week, as well as new resources like the book Manga: Introduction, Challenges and Best Practices, and publications for parents and educators about using graphic novels.
The Gaiman Foundation was founded to “to grant gifts to selected charitable and educational organizations that have demonstrated dedication and excellence in their respective missions.” Or, in the words of Gaiman’s daughter Holly, who serves as administrator and secretary: “The Gaiman Foundation was founded in order to Do Good. The initial way it Does Good is by financially supporting organizations like the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.”
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of the First Amendment rights of the comics artform and its community, has elected new officers and a new member to its board of directors.
Milton Griepp, founder of ICv2.com, was elected vice president following a lengthy tenure as treasurer; Jeff Abraham, president of Random House Publisher Services, was chosen to replace him as treasurer. Larry Marder and Dale Cendali were reelected as the organization’s president and secretary, respectively, while Andrew McIntire, senior director of retail operations for TFAW.com, was welcomed to the board, joining members Joe Ferrara, Steve Geppi, Paul Levitz and Chris Powell.
Founded in 1986, the organization last week launched its Spirit of Giving fundraising drive, with The Will & Ann Eisner Foundation contributing $2 for every donation and gift placed through the CBLDF website by Dec. 12. In addition, foundation will contribute $10 for each new membership and $5 for each renewal made until Dec. 31.
The CBLDF is offering a wide selection of works personalized by such creators as Alan Moore, Jeff Smith, Brian K. Vaughan, Raina Telgemeier, Paul Levitz, Brian Wood, Jason Aaron, Cliff Chiang and Terry Moore. In addition, there are books and prints signed by the likes of Neil Gaiman, George RR Martin, Paul Pope and Bryan Lee O’Malley.