By Charles Brownstein, Executive Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
Comics, graphic novels, and manga are an important, and often misunderstood facet of 21st Century libraries, making them the target of frequent challenges. During Banned Books Week, the Fund celebrated the freedom to read by publishing educational articles and resources on www.cbldf.org, running a special fundraiser with George R.R. Martin, co-hosting a read out in NYC, and partnering with comic book stores around the United States to make events highlighting the challenges comics face.
CBLDF.org's news blog offered daily content on banned & challenged graphic novels, including insightful posts about specific graphic novel bans for a total of 17 features. Artivles included profiles of the kinds of topics that lead to graphic novel bans, including focuses on books challenged for inappropriate language, sexual situations and nudity, and sexual orientation. We also provided spotlight coverage of the virtual read out, and a special focus on our current coalition work to rescind the ban on SideScrollers. Our resources area also published case studies on 19 graphic novel challenges and tools for how individuals can make their own Banned Books Week events.
The Fund partnered with ComicPRO, the comics retailing trade association to present displays and events at a dozen stores located in ten states. We also co-hosted an event in New York with the National Coalition Against Censorship titled, "Fifty Shades of Banned," a celebration of works banned because of sexually explicit content that include a live reading of R. Crumb's Joe Blow, the first comic book to be convicted as obscene.
George R.R. Martin showed his support for CBLDF's efforts to protect the freedom to read comics by contributing copies of his Wild Cards novel Inside Straight which he signed along with collaborators Melinda M. Snodgrass, and writers Daniel Abraham, Carrie Vaughn, Michael Cassutt, John Jos. Miller, and Caroline Spector. Martin said, "Free speech is one of the cornerstones of our democracy, yet somehow it is always under attack. The world is full of people who think they know better, and want to tell you what you should read, what you should write, what you should see. Christian fundamentalists, Muslim extremists, the right, the left… everybody seems to have a book or two they want banned, an idea or two they don’t want expressed. Well, I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with them."
The CBLDF also offered extensive branded options to support awareness of Banned Books Week, including free downloads of our I Read Banned Comics logo and brochure that stores and individuals could use , and a Banned Books Week store with I Read Banned Comics t-shirts, Be Free to Read prints by Bone creator Jeff Smith, the Comics Code Authority Seal of Approval tee, and even banned books signed by their authors.