Comics, Censorship, and the CBLDF

by mlarents

Somehow, Comic Con actually surpassed my expectations.  I took lots of silly pictures with cosplayers, was in the same room with Nathan Fillion (if you’re reading this, Nathan, I’m single and ready to date you), and went to some fantastic panels.  One of the best moments was at a panel on Privacy and Information Access when the audience members actually applauded and cheered for librarians.  It was my one rockstar moment; take that Stan Lee.

Early on Friday morning, I attended a panel by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund on the History of Comics Censorship.  The CBLDF is a non-profit organization whose main goal is to protect our first amendment rights.  They argue that, as individuals, we should govern our own intellectual development, and government forces should not have a say in what we think or what we make.

The CBLDF is certainly invested in protecting youths’ voices.  The speaker argued that while the job of young people is to horrify the older generation (who’s parents weren’t disgusted by Ren and Stimpy or South Park?), “moral crusaders [have] asserted that comics corrupt youth, hurt literacy rates, and are a strain on young eyes and nervous systems.”  These same authority figures often state that we need better, quieter stories for our children (what does that even mean?).

Batman and Robin are winking homosexuals, they’ll turn your children GAY!  Comics fuel juvenile delinquency!  Comics are only for the affluent and elite, dangerous for the everyman!  Obscene!  Manga is pornography!  OH MY BUDDHA, WHAT EVER WILL WE DO!?

CBLDF is a loud voice arguing against all the crazy-talk.  They support libraries, schools, publishers, and provide legal assistance to artists like Mike Diana.  Growing up in Florida, Mike felt like an outsider.  He started drawing and creating comics, swapping them through the mail.  One fine day, Mike was picked up by a cop who thought he looked like a murder suspect.  When the police realized he wasn’t, they searched his stuff and found “grotesque drawings”.  Mike was arrested for creating obscene material and was prohibited from drawing in his home.  And with that, Mike became the first ever American artist not allowed to make art.  When CBLDF got involved, they were able to move him to New Jersey (where they have real crime) so his home would no longer be randomly searched for having “obscene material”.

Comics, graphic novels, manga, none of it is going away.  As a future librarian, I’m happy to know CBLDF has our communities’ backs.  Check them out, they do cool stuff.