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Duke University responds to ‘Fun Home’ controversy

fun home2Despite the widely publicized objections by some incoming freshmen, Duke University appears to be standing by the selection of Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed graphic memoir Fun Home for its summer reading program.

“With a class of 1,750 new students from around the world, it would be impossible to find a single book that that did not challenge someone’s way of thinking,” Michael Schoenfeld, the university’s vice president for public affairs, said in a statement issued Monday. “We understand and respect that, but also hope that students will begin their time at Duke with open minds and a willingness to explore new ideas, whether they agree with them or not.”

The debate about the 2006 graphic novel, which chronicles Bechdel’s childhood with a closeted gay father, his apparent suicide and her own coming out as a lesbian, began on the Facebook page for Duke’s class of 2019, where incoming freshman Brian Grasso wrote that reading Fun Home would require him to “compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs.” While the ensuing discussion, first reported by Duke’s student newspaper, included support for the book, others admitted they were bothered by its depiction of sexual acts.

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Comics A.M. | Duke freshmen divided over ‘Fun Home’ selection

Fun Home

Fun Home

Graphic novels | A number of incoming freshmen at Duke University have refused to read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, chosen as the summer reading selection for the class of 2019. Brian Grasso started the conversation by posting on the class Facebook page that he wouldn’t read the graphic novel because of its depictions of sexuality, saying, “I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it.” That opened up a discussion in which some students defended the book and said that reading it would broaden their horizons, while others shied away from the visual depictions of sexual acts. And Grasso felt that the choice was insensitive, commenting: “Duke did not seem to have people like me in mind. It was like Duke didn’t know we existed, which surprises me.” [Duke Chronicle]

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Comics A.M. | Was Snoopy behind the slow death of ‘Peanuts’?

Snoopy

Snoopy

Comic strips | Reflecting on Charles M. Schulz’s long-running Peanuts, Kevin Wong lays much of the blame for the comic strip’s slow decline at the feet of the increasingly popular Snoopy: “[N]ear the end of the 60s and well into the 70s, the cracks started to show. Snoopy began walking on his hind legs and using his hands, and that was the beginning of the end for the strip. Perhaps he was technically still a dog, but in a very substantial way, Snoopy had overcome the principal struggle of his existence. His opposable thumbs and upward positioning meant that for all intents and purposes, he was now a human in a dog costume. One of his new roleplays was to be different Joes — Joe Cool, Joe Skateboard, etc.” [Kotaku]

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Comics A.M. | Ted Rall claims he’s ‘vindicated’ by enhanced LAPD tape

Ted Rall

Ted Rall

Political cartoons | Cartoonist Ted Rall, who was cut loose last week by the Los Angeles Times after the Los Angeles Police Department cast doubt on a blog post he wrote for the newspaper about being stopped in 2001 for jaywalking, has posted an enhanced version of the audiotape of that incident, which he says backs his version of the story. [aNewDomain]

Creators | Stan Lee waxes philosophical in an interview conducted at Boston Comic Con: “I think people need somebody to look up to as a role model, you know? Just like people need to believe in God, you need to feel there’s someone somewhere who can help you because you’re aware this is not a perfect world.” [Boston Herald]

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Comics A.M. | College graphic novel challenges on the rise says CBLDF

Fun Home

Fun Home

Censorship | During a panel at Comic-Con International, members of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund criticized a student’s attempt to have four graphic novels banned from her college campus. Crafton Hills College student Tara Shultz and her father, Craig Shultz, have called for Fun Home, Persepolis, the first volume of Y: The Last Man, and the second volume of The Sandman, all of which were included in a course on the graphic novel as literature, to be removed not only from the course but also from the college bookstore. The school has refused. CBLDF director Charles Brownstein noted that this is part of a troubling new trend: Graphic novel challenges at the college level. The CBLDF has been involved in 18 college cases so far this year, up from 10 in all of 2014. [Redlands Daily Facts]

Creators | “Opus’s [voice] came screaming back at me — true— when I faced those four empty panels that I hadn’t done since 1989,” cartoonist Berkeley Breathed told Michael Cavna, explaining why he is returning to his comic strip Bloom County after a lengthy absence. He also discusses the possibility of self-publishing rather than going with a newspaper syndicate: “Dead-tree media requires constancy and deadlines and guarantees. This flattens the joy. It also presents a huge income. It’s an interesting trade-off, isn’t it?” [Comic Riffs]

Commentary | David Brothers critiques Marvel’s plans to publish hip-hop themed variant covers, given that none of the newly announced creators for Marvel titles are black. [i am davidbrothers dotcom]

Creators | Kate Beaton talks about her family, webcomics, princesses, and her pony character’s guest appearance on Adventure Time. [Time]

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No disclaimer for college graphic novel course

persepolisA course on graphic novels as literature at a California college won’t carry a disclaimer after all, despite a statement by the school’s president that one would be included in response to a student’s complaint about adult content in some of the required reading.

According to Redlands Daily Facts, a Crafton Hills College spokeswoman said the disclaimer was never mandated, and Professor Ryan Bartlett, who teaches the English 250 course, ultimately decided against one.

“College is supposed to be a place where students can have real exchanges about sometimes difficult topics,” Bartlett said in an email. “An English major will have to read works in the literary canon (for example Shakespeare, Chaucer and the Bible) which include similar issues present in the chosen graphic novels. If we put a disclaimer on this course, then we should put a disclaimer on all literature courses, and I do not feel comfortable going down that slippery slope.”

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Comics A.M. | Spider-Man toy inventor disappointed by ruling

webblaster

Legal | Inventor Stephen Kimble, who was dealt a final loss Monday by the Supreme Court in his years-long fight with Marvel over royalties for a Spider-Man toy, is of course disappointed by the 6-3 decision. However, he seems hopeful that there might be a legislative solution to the outdated patent law. “We can take this opinion, go to the legislators … and say, ‘Look, the court is saying that if this needs to be changed, you’re the guys to change it,’” he said. “And there is a huge body of evidence out there that this needs to be changed.” [Tucson Sentinel]

Manga | Kathryn Hemmann looks at the ways publishers courted female readers in the early days of manga, and how their strategies led to permanent changes in the comics landscape. [Contemporary Japanese Literature]

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College declines student’s request to ban ‘Persepolis,’ ‘Sandman’

persepolisFollowing a student’s protest over the contents of the graphic novels required by her English 250 class, Crafton Hills College President Cheryl A. Marshall has issued a statement saying the college will not ban any books or alter the content of the course.

I support the college’s policy on academic freedom which requires an open learning environment at the college.  Students have the opportunity to study controversial issues and arrive at their own conclusions and faculty are to support the student’s right to freedom of inquiry.  We want students to learn and grow from their college experiences; sometimes this involves reaffirming one’s values while other times beliefs and perspectives change.  In this specific case, the syllabus distributed on the first day of class contained the list of required reading materials allowing students the opportunity to research the books and make a choice about the class.  The class is one of numerous electives available for completion of the English degree.  We are attempting to avoid this situation in the future and Professor Bartlett has agreed to include a disclaimer on the syllabus in the future so students have a better understanding of the course content.  I know he appreciated the differing views presented by Ms. Shultz in his class.

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Student, parents want college to ban ‘Sandman,’ ‘Persepolis,’ more

sandman-dolls houseCollege student Tara Shultz is the latest in a long line of people to be shocked to find that Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir about growing up during the Iranian revolution, contains violence.

A 20-year-old attending Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, California, was so dismayed by the graphic content in four of the graphic novels required by her English 250 course — official description: “the study of the graphic novel as a viable medium of literature through readings, in-class discussion and analytical assignments” — that she and her parents are seeking to have them banned by the administration.

In addition to Persepolis, Shultz took exception to Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, the first volume of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s Y: The Last Man, and Neil Gaiman, Mike Dringenberg & Co.’s The Sandman: The Doll’s House, due to the depictions of sex, violence and “obscenities.”

“I didn’t expect to open the book and see that graphic material within,” she told the Redlands Daily Facts. “I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography.”

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Comics A.M. | ReedPOP expands to Austria with Vienna Comic Con

Vienna Comic Con

Vienna Comic Con

Conventions | Convention producer ReedPOP will add Vienna Comic Con in Austria to a growing roster of shows that already includes the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, New York Comic Con, Emerald City Comicon, PAX, OZ Comic Con, Shanghai Comic Con, Star Wars Celebration and Comic Con Paris. It’s scheduled for Nov. 21-22 at Messe Wien in Vienna. ”We aim to make Vienna Comic Con the leading pop culture event in Central Europe,” Barbara Leithner of Reed Exhibitions said in a statement. “Fans at Vienna Comic Con will experience unique programs and events, and meet pop culture creatives from all over the world.” [press release]

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‘Fun Home’ musical adaptation earns 12 Tony nominations

fun home2

Fun Home, the musical based on Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed 2006 graphic memoir, this morning scored 12 Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical, tying with An American in Paris to lead the field.

Adapted by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori, the stage production, like the graphic novel, is an account of Bechdel’s childhood with a closeted gay father, his apparent suicide and her own coming out as a lesbian.

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SC governor approves budget ‘compromise’ in ‘Fun Home’ fight

fun home2South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley last week signed a state budget that requires two colleges to spend nearly $70,000 to teach the U.S. Constitution and other historical documents as punishment for selecting gay-themed books for their freshman reading programs.

According to The State, Haley said she appreciated the compromise, approved last month by the state Senate to prevent a standoff over the House’s punitive cuts of $52,000 to the College of Charleston and $17,142 to the University of South Carolina Upstate for selecting Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home, and Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, respectively. The figures represent the amount each school spent on last year’s programs.

During heated debates in both legislative bodies, some lawmakers accused the College of Charleston of promoting a gay agenda and forcing pornography on its students. On the floor of the Senate, where a vote was delayed by a Democrat-led filibuster, some legislators reportedly “compared Fun Home and its author to everything from slavery to serial murderer Charles Manson and Adolf Hitler.”

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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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Comics A.M. | ‘Walking Dead, ‘Saga,’ ‘Titan’ rule bookstores in April

The Walking Dead, Vol. 20

The Walking Dead, Vol. 20

Retailing | While Captain America: The Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection cracked Nielsen BookScan’s Top 20 graphic novels sold in bookstores, making it the first Marvel or DC Comics release since January to do so, the April chart was again dominated by three familiar titles: The Walking Dead, Attack on Titan and Saga, which claimed a combined 13 spots. The horror series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard led the trio with six volumes, followed by Hajime Isayama’s dystopian fantasy with four, and Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ space opera with three. The 36th volume of Masashi Kishimoto’s hit manga Naruto was No. 1 in April. [ICv2.com]

Events | On the eve of the 11th Toronto Comic Arts Festival, The Japan Times looks at both the growing presence of manga, and Dork Shelf talks with festival director Christopher Butcher about its Comics vs. Games 3 showcase. Meanwhile, the National Post is running a series of conversations between artists attending TCAF, beginning with Georgia Webber and Seo Kim, and Réal Godbout and Nick Abadzis. You can read more of its festival coverage here. [Toronto Comic Arts Festival]

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