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.
Awards | Graphic novels for the first time have made the shortlist for the Costa Book Awards (formerly the Whitbread Awards): Mary and Bryan Talbot’s Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes in the Biography category, and Days of the Bagnold Summer by Joff Winterhart in the Novel category. [The Guardian]
Passings | Indian politician and former editorial cartoonist Bal Thackeray has died at the age of 86; Thackeray was in the news most recently supporting fellow cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, who was jailed briefly on charges of sedition. [The Comics Reporter]
Awards | The Australian Cartoonists Association has bestowed their highest honor, the Gold Stanley Award, on David Pope, cartoonist for The Canberra Times. [The Canberra Times]
My good friend Robin Brenner is an expert on graphic novels (she’s a former Eisner Awards judge) and the young-adult librarian at the Brookline, Massachusetts, public library. She’s also very clever with her hands, as you can see from these book hedgehogs she made from discarded books.
The basic algorithm for making book hedgehogs is pretty simple, but Robin took it a step further and came up with a whole array of personalized hedgehogs based on comics characters. Here are some close-ups, including the tiny bow and arrows for the Hawkeye hedgehog, and here is a gallery of more characters. It’s amazing what you can do with an old book, some duct tape, and plenty of imagination!
Minnesota’s Twin Cities have a thriving comics community of fans and creators alike, so it’s not surprising — but no less cool — that a couple has opened a comics-themed Little Free Library in their neighborhood. Emily and Jay opened the library to share books they love with their neighbors, but it was Jay’s love of comics that inspired the box’s design and name: the Library of Justice. Not only is it shaped like the Hall of Justice, but on the inside is a special shelf devoted to comics. The library was designed by a friend, Joe Allen, and Emily’s father provided the materials and did the construction. Jay sanded and painted.
Jay and Emily hosted a ribbon-cutting over the weekend with cider, treats (including superhero cookies), and plenty of free books. As you can see in the photos, there was a great turn-out of all kinds of book lovers, though the kids – and some of the grown-ups – were all about the comics. Check out the library’s website for more photos from the event, info about how the library works, and even tips for enjoying the comics that can be checked out there.
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].”
Comics | Johan Palme talks to Nathan Hamelberg of The Betweenship Group about the continuing controversy over a Swedish library’s decision to re-shelve some Tintin comics because of racist caricatures and colonialist attitudes. The books were put back following an uproar, but the move has sparked a larger conversation, and it even has its own hashtag, #tintingate. [The Guardian]
Conventions | Heidi MacDonald and the Publishers Weekly team (including Robot 6 contributor Brigid Alverson) post a comprehensive report on New York Comic Con, including debuts, new-title announcements, and a quick look at logistics. [Publishers Weekly Comics World]
Conventions | Dave Smith looks at one of the most vexing problems of New York Comic Con: the lack of decent wireless access, a situation troubling exhibitors and media alike. [International Business Times]
Publishing | IDW Publishing CEO Ted Adams discusses the company’s new IDW Limited program, which will produce small print runs of deluxe editions that will be marketed direct to the consumer. How small? The print run for the Blue Label edition of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Vol. 1 Deluxe Limited Edition will be 10 copies. “The only fair thing to do is to give the fans direct access on a first come first served basis,” he said. “We’re putting an incredible emphasis on quality, and that directly affects the quantity of books IDW Limited can produce. We’re designing new covers, building custom cases and paying the artists to do hand drawn sketch work to go with these books. The reality is that that’s all very expensive and unfortunately it makes it difficult for us to offer this line at the deep discount needed for traditional retail distribution.” [ICv2]
Libraries | Following the firestorm sparked last month when a youth library in Stockholm briefly removed Tintin comics because of their racial caricatures of Africans and Arabs, a survey finds that 10 percent of Swedish libraries have removed or restricted Herge’s books due to “racist content.” [The Local]
A youth library in Stockholm pulled Tintin comics from its shelves on the grounds that the racial caricatures of Africans and Arabs are not suitable for children before quickly backpedaling after the removal triggered a media firestorm in Sweden.
“I wanted to highlight an opinion piece about issues of discrimination, but realize now that it’s wrong to ban books,” explained Behrang Miri, the Kulturhuset library’s youth director.
Although the articles don’t specify which Tintin books were pulled, it’s safe to say the primary culprit was Tintin in the Congo, published in 1930, in which the Belgian creator Herge depicted Africans in crudely stereotyped ways. The book has come under heavy criticism in the United States and in Europe, and several attempts have been made, some successful, to remove it from libraries and bookstores (in February, a Belgian court rejected a five-year-old bid to ban the book).
So it’s something of a surprise to learn that Tintin is actually quite popular in the Congo, with locally made statues of the characters and mockups of the covers selling briskly to European tourists. While the director of the national museum objects to the proliferation of Tintinabilia, preferring to focus on the rich native heritage of the country, artisan Auguy Kakese, who makes and sells Tintin figures for a living is more sanguine:
Legal | Marvel has sued a Jerusalem retailer for $25,000, claiming the well-known Kippa Man store is infringing on its trademarks by selling unlicensed yarmulkes bearing Spider-Man’s likeness. “A reasonable consumer could be fooled into thinking that the infringing product is manufactured and/or sold by the plaintiff with the knowledge and/or approval of the defendant,” Marvel said in its complaint. Kippa Man owner Avi Binyamin notes the yarmulkes are manufactured in China, and that he only sells them. “There are 20 stores on this street, they all sell the same thing,” he told The Jerusalem Post, theorizing that he’s being targeted because his store is well known. The Times of Israel characterized the lawsuit as “the first move by Marvel against what it perceives as widespread copyright infringement in Israel, where products featuring its copyrighted superheros are commonly sold.” [The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel]
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]
Fantagraphics announced last week it has formed a partnership with Alexander Street Press to include a complete run of The Comics Journal as part of the Underground and Independent Comics, Comix, and Graphic Novels online archive. Not knowing much about Alexander or the archive, I contacted Fantagraphics Co-Publisher Gary Groth to get some more information.
Robot 6: For the uninitiated, can you explain what Alexander Street Press is and what purpose they serve in the academic community?
Gary Groth: I’m by no means an expert on Alexander Street Press, but my understanding is that they provide searchable digital databases to academic institutions composed of classics works in a variety of disciplines — such as film, theater, literature, etc. These are provided primarily for scholarly use. I was able to go into some of their databases and poke around and they’re truly remarkable. You can search for subjects, themes, proper names, historic events, key words, etc.
How did this partnership come about? Did they contact you or vice versa?
They approached us.
Derek Kirk Kim was at the American Library Association midsummer meeting last weekend, and he went through the Artists Alley with a video camera asking the creators what they think of ALA versus comic conventions. The lineup includes Dave Roman, Raina Telegemeier, Gene Luen Yang and Cecil Castelucci, among others, and the answers are interesting; several people focused on the way that the ALA attendees (who are, obviously, mostly librarians) are very engaged in the subject matter and interested in learning about something new, while comic con attendees tend to be looking for more of the same familiar comics.
Check out the video; it’s 10 minutes well spent.
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.
Graphic novels | The Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation and the American Library Association will launch the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Prize for Libraries at the ALA summer conference, held June 21-26 in Anaheim, California. Three libraries each year will be selected to receive all the books nominated for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, as well as a $2,000 voucher to buy additional graphic novels and a $1,000 stipend to hold comics-related or author events. Libraries to register to win at the ALA conference; winners will be announced June 24. [Publishers Weekly]
Graphic novels | Calvin Reid and Heidi MacDonald look at the graphic novel presence at last week’s BookExpo America. [Publishers Weekly]
Publishing | Bob Wayne, DC Comics’ senior vice president of sales, and John Cunningham, vice president of marketing, discuss May sales figures, which show the publisher edging closer to Marvel in market share and Batman topping Justice League. Wayne also explained why DC won’t change its practice of publishing collected editions first in hardcover, then as inexpensive paperbacks: “While certain titles do get a deluxe or an Absolute Edition at some point, we think our retailer would be leaving a lot of money on the table if we didn’t give consumers the chance to buy hardcovers first on select titles. The sales we are having in both channels on Batman and Justice League in the month of May indicate that we don’t have that many people waiting the trade, looking for that cheaper edition. A lot of people seem to want a nice durable hardcover and we plan to follow this model for the foreseeable future.” [ICv2]
Piracy | Manga scanlators (and proprietors of other bootleg comics sites, such as HTMLComics.com) have argued that reading manga on their sites is no different from checking it out of the library. Librarian and graphic novel expert Robin Brenner explains why that just isn’t so. [About.com]