freedom of speech Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
Awards | The finalists for the inaugural Kirkus Prize literary awards include two graphic novels: Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? is one of six nominees in the Nonfiction category, and Cece Bell’s El Deafo is one of the picks for the Young Readers award. The winners in all three categories, who will receive $50,000 each, will be announced during a ceremony held Oct. 23 in Austin, Texas. [The Washington Post]
Manga | A prequel to Osamu Tezuka’s classic Astro Boy manga is in the works for the Japanese magazine Monthly Hero’s. Tezuka’s son, Makoto Tezuka, is supervising the production of the story, which focuses on the time before the “birth” of the iconic robot boy. [Anime News Network]
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.
This is Banned Books Week, the annual celebration of all the books that someone, somewhere, thought was objectionable — which usually means they make good reading. This year, the focus is on comics and graphic novels, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is working with the other sponsors, including the American Library Association, to produce a number of resources for librarians and others, including a Banned Books Week Handbook; the organization has also posted a handy list of Banned Book Week events across the country (including this panel discussion, which I’ll be part of).
This 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.
Legal | Artists from around the world are drawing in support of Tunisian cartoonist Jabeur Mejri, who is serving a seven-and-a-half-year prison sentence for posting caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad online. Just two weeks after Tunisia adopted a new constitution that protects freedom of expression, Jabeur’s supporters have launched a “100 Cartoons for Jabeur” website and released a statement saying, “While freedom of expression and conscience are guaranteed in this founding text, the continued detention of Jabeur Mejri is contrary to the spirit and the text of the constitution.” [Yahoo News]
Publishing | Andrews McMeel’s AMP! division will publish Reading With Pictures: The Graphic Textbook, a collection of graphic stories on a number of topics, including math, history and social studies, that is designed to fit into the Common Core standards. The creators involved include Roger Langridge, Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey. While this is big news for Reading With Pictures, the organization behind the book, it’s also an interesting move for AMP!, which has been focusing on kid-friendly reprint collections of its parent company’s newspaper strips. [The Beat]
Legal | Ecuadorean cartoonist Xavier Bonilla has received a court summons on unspecified charges that seem to relate to a cartoon that President Rafael Correa finds offensive. The case was brought by Ecuador’s new media regulator; Correa has stepped up attacks on the press in recent years, and the newspaper that runs Bonilla’s cartoons, El Universo, has been prosecuted in the past. [Business Standard]
Censorship | Michael Dooley looks at successful and unsuccessful attempts to remove comics from schools and libraries over the past 13 years; this short roundup is informative in its own right, and it’s apparently a sidebar to a longer article that’s not available for free. [Print Magazine]
The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar describes his government’s attempts to silence him, and proclaims his determination not to be silenced, in a column on the news site Malaysiakini. Last week, a court dismissed his appeal of his 2010 arrest, although he was never formally charged, and another court ruled that the government had to return the books confiscated from him. Zunar says he has another appeal before the court and doesn’t expect to prevail in that one either.
The trouble started in 2009 with the publication of his comic Gedung Kartun (Cartoon-o-Phobia). Before it could be distributed, government officials raided his office and confiscated 400 copies of the book; the next day they raided his printer and warned them not to print any more of Zunar’s books, threatening to revoke their printing license.
“I, Chew Peng Ee, accept that the following comic strips (“the comic strips”), published by me on the Facebook page of Demon-cratic Singapore between 20 July 2011 and 16 June 2012, namely:
(a) Episode #111: Justice, where are thou in Singapore;
(b) Episode #238: Justice is dead – Part I;
(c) Episode #239: Justice is dead – Part II; and
(d) Episode #337: Justice Singapore style
scandalised the Judiciary of the Republic of Singapore (“the Singapore Judiciary”).
I also accept that comic strips had misrepresented to the public that the Singapore Judiciary administers differential treatment to individuals based on their nationality, social status and political affiliation, and that there have been specific criminal cases in which decisions were made by the Singapore Judiciary on the basis of the above factors rather than on the merits.
I unreservedly apologise for committing contempt of court and have taken down the comic strips and accompanying comments.”
– Leslie Chew‘s apology to the Singapore court that had slapped him with contempt-of-court charges for posting cartoons critical of them on Facebook. The charges were dropped, presumably in exchange for the apology and the removal of the comics.
Passings | Golden Age creators Marcus “Marc” Swayze, best known for writing and drawing Fawcett’s Captain Marvel comics in the early 1940s, died Sunday in Monroe, Louisiana. He was 99. Swayze, who created Mary Marvel with writer Otto Binder, employed a simple style of illustration. “My personal philosophy was to use the art in storytelling so that even a child who couldn’t yet read could get a story out of it,” he told the Monroe News-Star in 2000. [The News-Star]
Legal | The Indian government has officially dropped sedition charges against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, but he still faces up to three years in prison if found guilty on the remaining charges under the Prevention of Insult to National Honor Act of 1971. Trivedi was arrested last month and briefly jailed before being released on bail. In an odd twist, Trivedi is currently participating in the reality show Bigg Boss, the Indian counterpart of Big Brother. [UPI.com]
Legal | The Bombay High Court had sharp words for the Mumbai Police regarding the arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi on a sedition charge. “How can you (police) arrest people on frivolous grounds? You arrest a cartoonist and breach his liberty of freedom of speech and expression,” said justices DY Chandrachud and Amjad Sayyed during a hearing in the case. The court will issue guidelines for the application of the sedition law, said the justices, who called the arrest of Trivedi “arbitrary.” “We have one Aseem Trivedi who was courageous enough to raise his voice and stand against this, but what about several others whose voices are shut by police.” [The Economic Times]
Creators | Grant Morrison talks about the guy who (literally) ate a copy of Supergods, why he is moving away from superheroes, and his upcoming Pax Americana, which is based on the same Charlton characters as Watchmen: “It’s so not like Watchmen. In the places where it is like Watchmen people will laugh because it’s really quite … it’s really faithful and respectful but at the same time satiric. I don’t think people will be upset by it, in the way that they’ve been upset by Before Watchmen which even though it’s good does ultimately seem redundant … This one is its own thing but it deliberately quotes the kind of narrative techniques used in Watchmen and does something new with them.” [New Statesman]
Indian cartoonist Aseem Trivedi is free on bail today after being jailed Saturday in Mumbai on charges of sedition and insulting Indian national symbols. The case, which stems from a display of cartoons at a protest in December and on his website Cartoons Against Corruption, has led to a widespread public outcry within the country.
Trivedi was arrested after a complaint was filed by a law student, Amit Katarnayea:
“I saw the exhibition of cartoons at the protest organised by [anti-corruption activist] Anna Hazare at Bandra-Kurla Complex in December 2011. It had Kasab’s face on animals peeing on Constitution, the lions of the Ashoka emblem were replaced by wolves and Parliament was shown as a commode. As a responsible citizen, I felt duty bound to complain to the police against Trivedi for exhibiting such insulting cartoons,” the third-year law student from DY Patil College, Nerul, said on Monday.
“Anna and his team should have stopped the exhibition.” Katarnaware said the charges of sedition have been rightly applied as the cartoons are an insult to Constitution.