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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.
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]
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.
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.
Comics | The Greenville County (South Carolina) Library has removed two copies of Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Neonomicon from its shelves after a mother filed an official challenge to the collection’s sexual content. Carrie Gaske said that although her 14-year-old daughter found the horror book in the adult section, she thought “it looked like a children’s comic,” and would be fine for her to check out. Daughter Jennifer soon discovered Neonomicon wasn’t the “murder mystery comic book” her mother believed it to be. “It was good at first,” she said. “Then it got nasty.” How “nasty”? “The more into I got the more shocked I was, I really had no idea this type of material was allowed at a public library,” Carrie Gaske said. “I feel that has the same content of Hustler or Playboy or things like that. Maybe even worse.”
The library allows children age 13 and older to check out books from the adult section with their parents’ permission. The library system’s two copies of Neonomicon have been removed from circulation while a committee reviews the content. [WSPA.com]
Here’s an even more eclectic list than the Los Angeles Times Book Prize nominees: The graphic novel contenders for the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award:
Anya’s Ghost, by Vera Brosgol (First Second)
Locke & Key, Volume 4, by Joe Hill (artist: Gabriel Rodriguez) (IDW)
Green River Killer, by Jeff Jensen (artist: Jonathan Case) (Dark Horse)
Marvel Universe vs. Wolverine, by Jonathan Maberry (penciler: Laurence Campbell) (Marvel)
Baltimore: The Plague Ships, by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden (artist: Ben Stenbeck; colorist: Dave Stewart) (Dark Horse)
Neonomicon, by Alan Moore (artist: Jacen Burrows) (Avatar Press)
I added in the artists because apparently the Stoker folks were only thinking about writers. I’m impressed with how broad the selection of books is, given that they all qualify as “horror” to someone: Anya’s Ghost, while genuinely scary, is a teenage ghost story, Green River Killer is true crime, Marvel Universe vs. Wolverine is a superhero story, admittedly with something that sounds a lot like a zombie twist. The other three are closer to what I think of when I think of “horror,” but they are all still quite different from one another.
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.
If I had $15, I’d mostly grab the second issues of some DC stuff I enjoyed last month: Batman ($2.99), Birds of Prey ($2.99), and especially Wonder Woman ($2.99). No Justice League for me though. Unlike Action Comics, I didn’t enjoy the first issue enough that I can rationalize paying $4 for it. Instead, I’ll grab Avengers 1959 #2 ($2.99) and Red 5’s Bonnie Lass #2 ($2.95), both of which had strong first issues.
If I had $30, I’d have to put back Bonnie Lass and wait for the collection in order to afford Jonathan Case’s atomic-sea-monster-love-story Dear Creature ($15.99).
This year’s Best Comic/Graphic Novel category includes a bit of an oddity, in that CLiNT, from Mark Millar and Titan Publishing, isn’t actually a comic or graphic novel but rather an entertainment magazine that serializes such works as Kick-Ass 2, Superior, The Pro and Turf.
The nominees for Best Comic/Graphic Novel are:
• CLiNT, edited by Mark Millar (Titan)
• Grandville Mon Amour, by Bryan Talbot (Jonathan Cape)
• Neonomicon, by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows (Avatar)
• The Mountains of Madness, by Ian Culbard (Self Made Hero)
• The Unwritten, Vols 1 & 2, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (Titan Books)
Members of the British Fantasy Society and attendees of FantasyCon 2010 and 2011 are eligible to vote.