If you love comics, you should love the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which fights for your right to read comics without the threat of censorship. And now, the good folks at Humble Bundle have curated a fantastic collection including comics like Lumberjanes, Saga and Attack on Titan, all to support comic creators and businesses in need.
“Humble Comics Bundle: Start Here!” features over 40 comics and graphic novels from publishers including BOOM! Studios, Dark Horse, Fantagraphics, Image Comics, Kodansha, Top Shelf and more, spanning America, Europe and Japan. The Humble Bundle: Start Here! kicks off February 13th at 2:00 p.m. and runs through March 1st at 1:00 p.m., Eastern time. For more on the available titles, visit the Humble Bundle website.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve plopped my butt down on an airline seat. There are several reasons for this, the primary one being I loathe being treated like shit.
As we have seen from all too many recent incidents, once onboard airplane employees have complete control over your fate. If you do not promptly obey their every command or, say, object to their anti-peanut policy, they can and will have you arrested. If somebody on the plane thinks you look weird, or you look like a Muslim or some other type of person they find noxious, they will complain to a flight attendant. If you have yet to take-off, the airplane Nazis will call the goon squad and have you taken off the plane, sometimes by force. If you’re in the air, you likely will be arrested when the plane lands. Paranoid Fox News watchers, and that is redundant, now own your ass.
Ever since my upper left arm and shoulder was replaced with metallic prosthetics, I’ve figured to be safe I need to get to the airport at least four hours before my flight because employees of the government’s Transportation Security Agency, better known as the TSA, are likely to lose their minds when I approach the metal detector machine. Adding four hours to the two hours it takes me to get to the airport and park my car and get to the security line makes my driving anywhere east of the Mississippi and north of the Mason-Dixon line faster and a lot cheaper and much more pleasant.
The TSA already wants to copy or cop our laptop computers, smartphones, and tablets, and that is beyond the pale. It’s also un-American, but since when has our government given a shit about that? But this latest decision is one step beyond. I will no longer voluntarily submit myself to their terror.
According to the CBLDF, “In 2010, for instance, the ACLU represented Nick George, a college student who was handcuffed, detained, and interrogated at Philadelphia International Airport while carrying a set of Arabic-English flashcards and the book Rogue Nation by Clyde Prestowitz – a former Reagan Administration official who was critical of foreign policy under George W. Bush.”
The CBLDF continues: “ACLU policy analyst Jay Stanley outlined just a few reasons that travelers might not want strangers perusing their choice of reading: A person who is reading a book entitled Overcoming Sexual Abuse or Overcoming Sexual Dysfunction is not likely to want to plop that volume down on the conveyor belt for all to see. Even someone reading a bestseller like 50 Shades of Grey or a mild self-help book with a title such as What Should I Do With My Life? might be shy about exposing his or her reading habits.”
If you are boarding with any of several thousand graphic novels – Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V For Vendetta, published by DC Comics, or Dan Parent’s Kevin Keller, published by Archie Comics, or J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr’s Amazing Spider-Man: Revelations, published by Marvel Comics, or damn near any manga, you may be arrested and imprisoned. That is not an exaggeration.
In recent weeks, our free press has been labeled malicious liars by Donald Trump, our nation’s Man/Baby-In-Chief, and his spokeslackeys. All too many Congresspeople from his party have either chimed in their support or declined to stand up to this sophistry. Our Supreme Court, freshly imbued with a Trump appointee so far to the right that he should have his own talk show, just took a sledgehammer to the truly American concept of separation of church and state. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, proving once again – to quote Arlo Guthrie – that not all highs are good highs.
None of this bodes well for our future. The United States of America is rapidly becoming a dictatorship. Fifty years ago, Frank Zappa wrote a song called “Concentration Moon.” It contained the obviously seditious line “American way, try and explain. Scab of a nation, driven insane.” In the subsequent half-century, when it comes to America’s vaunted freedoms we have managed to go backwards.
I hate writing about this. I hate having to write about this so frequently. But this is the world we live in.
As my ol’ pal Martha Thomases wrote a couple days ago, I tend to have a thing about free speech. I’m an absolutist. In my fevered brain, I figure we don’t have free speech unless it’s complete and it covers everything, in all forms of expression. Some people put limitations on what will be tolerated and they put restrictions on what can be said and where things can be said. Even if I were the one making those decisions – an amusing concept – that is not free speech. As I keep on saying, I would not remove Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf from the libraries, although I would use the book to teach high schoolers the cause and effect of hate speech.
This does not absolve the speaker (writer, filmmaker, videographer, broadcaster, Internet troll) from taking responsibility for his or her actions. That’s why we have anti-defamation laws, and if they make you think twice about what you say, well, you should be thinking twice anyway. I’m also pro-truth.
People like to quote the 1919 Supreme Court ruling that says you can’t shout “fire” in a crowded theater. They are mistaken. In the case of Schenck v. U.S., Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote: “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.” The italicized words are my doing, but even if you note the critical difference… it doesn’t matter.
Schenck v. U.S was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1969 in the case of Brandenburg v. Ohio, which ruled that speech could only be banned when it was likely to incite imminent lawless action – a riot. This test is a matter of established law. Yelling fire outside a building to prevent people from entering is quite different from encouraging people to stampede out.
Having been a free speech absolutist for about a half-century, I am particularly terror-stricken when a bunch of self-righteous assholes get books pulled from libraries. This time they not only got another book banned, they got the publisher to stop printing the book.
The good folks at Abrams published a clever little book titled Bad Little Children’s Books, written by “Arthur C. Gackley,” which is a nom de plume. It says “Kid-Lit Parodies, Shameless Spoofs, Offensively Tweaked Covers” right there on the cover. I am not going to comment on the quality of the material in the book because that is completely irrelevant, and besides such comment would only be my opinion and, as I noted above, I am not the arbiter of good taste. Yes, that is quite a shame.
The hubbub in social media was so great that the author asked Abrams to cease publishing his book. Abrams declined to withdraw the title, but they said they won’t be going back to press for subsequent printings.
My favorite comments on said social media are those who say “it’s not funny.” Really? Who the hell are you to determine what is or is not funny? Roy Cohn, the far-right-wing lawyer who orchestrated Senator Joe McCarthy’s red scare in the 1950s and later became one of Donald Trump’s major influences, was a gay man so closeted he refused to accept his own sexuality to the point where he even refused to let his lover into his hospital room as he was dying from HIV. The fact that he died of HIV due to his unacknowledged sexual orientation is likely to have contributed to his death: if you can’t accept your gayness you might not be taking the necessary precautions for safer sex (note to heterosexuals: you, too). You don’t think his death is funny? To quote George Carlin, “Fuck you, I think it’s hilarious.” Neither you nor I are the arbitrator of “funny.”
This social media stuff is scary. It, too, has the rights of free speech and there’s no ifs about that. I do note it’s the same tool that elected Donald Trump, in part, because of false news implants by people like Trump’s designated national security adviser Michael Flynn and General Flynn’s son. The kid’s tweet about how Hillary Clinton ran a child sex slavery ring out of a Washington DC pizza parlor motivated one idiot to drive from North Carolina to Washington to shoot the place up. I gather this is because he thinks most theaters now are fire retardant.
A few days ago the Washington Post ran its list of the top 10 books most challenged in schools and librariesand, once again, Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home makes the list. It’s number seven with a bullet… right underneath “The Bible.” Number eight is Craig Thompson’s graphic novel Habibi. There are two ways of looking at this. The first is, well, I guess it’s nice to see graphic novels are being taken seriously, even by the terminally self-righteous. The second is, censorship sucks.
If there is anybody who I have yet to piss off, this should do the trick. I am just as opposed from removing books from school libraries. Often you hear parents say they don’t want to have to answer the difficult questions their children might ask after reading such material. I respond “You should have thought of that before you pounded out your kid.” Explaining such stuff honestly and in terms your child can understand is a good part of your job. It ain’t easy, but “childrearing” and “easy” are mutually exclusive, and if you didn’t know that when you decided to keep the fetus, welcome to Earth.
These articles on ComicMix usually end with “support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund” and many of us who toil here do just that. If you haven’t already, check them out. If you’ve got some spare cash and you’ve already paid the rent and put food in the pantry, please send them some loot.
Who decides what is pornography? Who gets to stop people from seeing it? And why do they bother?
A Utah state senator got a bill passed declaring pornography a public health crisis. It’s been a while since I’ve been in Utah, but I was in New York City a couple days ago and I figure if porn is a “public health crisis” in Utah, there would be some sign of that in the Big Apple. I saw no signs of any public health crisis whatsoever. I asked my fellow ComicMix columnist Mindy Newell if she’s seen any signs of a porn-related health pandemic; by day Mindy’s an operating room nurse in the New Jersey portion of the metropolitan area. She acknowledged that pornography might be a threat to the health of certain religions that maintain broad governmental power, but it’s not a physical health threat like, say, the ebola epidemic.
Of course, true freedom of religion must include a person’s right to not be held to the religious standards of others. According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, 37.36% of that state’s population is not Mormon and, by federal law, the majority religion has no right to force the rather large minority population of non-Mormons to adhere to its religious predilections.
But, I dunno, maybe they’ve got all sorts of problems with “porn” out in Utah that New Yorkers don’t have. I would give Republican State Senator Todd Weiler the benefit of the doubt, but then I’d be enabling him and I don’t want to do that. Weiler promises to introduce at least three more “anti-pornography” laws next session, including one that would demand your local Internet service provider (ISP) add systems that would make you have to register and prove your age in order to view pornography… assuming you are in Utah.
As I noted, “pornography” is not clearly defined. I understand why: any solid, comprehensive definition must define the bible as pornography as well as www.heresnewtittiesforyou.com… not to mention medical care sites, rape crisis information, psychological and suicide prevention sites, and so on.
Pete Ashdown, founder of a Utah ISP, told the Associated Press that completely filtering the Internet of porn is technically impossible, pointing to China’s inability to stop the courageous rabble from using the Net to foment protest. “Trying to control the Internet in these broad stroke ways never works,” Mr. Ashdown stated. “Whether you’re an autocratic government trying to tell people that democracy is not good for them or an uptight legislator in Utah telling everyone what is pornography and what is not pornography.” His opinion was shared by many First Amendment lawyers and freedom fighters, who note that the state of Utah cannot impose its will onto interstate traffic.
Of course, the electronic book-burners always hide their “moral” inquisitions behind the banner of “we’re doing it for the children.” These people are both liars and fools: the kids are alright, and turning something into forbidden fruit only makes it sweeter.
I simply do not understand why these imperious jihadists do not simply go back to doing what they do best: persecuting homosexuals, the transgendered, and feminists, and where they go to the bathroom.
You might ask, what does all of this have to do with comic books? Ask such accused pornographers as J. Michael Straczynski, John Romita Jr., Alison Bechdel, Keiji Nakazawa, Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, Phoebe Gloeckner, Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell, Howard Cruse, Raina Telgemeier, Daniel Clowes, Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Robert Crumb, Howard Chaykin and Maurice Sendak… to name but a very, very few.
Once again, retailer extraordinaire Dennis Barger is involved in some amazing debates and discussions within our industry. The last time his name came up we discussed the over-sexualization of the Powerpuff Girls. This time, it’s a far less provocative topic.
Already well-covered by Bleeding Cool, the recent plight of pencilers revolves around the cost of their signature. The debate: some well known creators charge for their autograph. Others choose not to. In choosing to be free, there are those who say this now devalues the ability for others to pluck a buck from a would-be fan. For some creators, the option to take a tithe of the nerditry is traded part-in-parcel for donations to the Hero Initiative, the CBLDF, or other worthy charities. And if any of this sounds familiar, My ComicMix compatriot Molly Jackson gave her two cents, wonderfully, earlier this week. So, the definitive question that we’re trying to figure out is… Who’s right?
Well, sadly our comic culture lives in a world no longer set in just black and white. Both sides have valid points. For those on “Team Charge!” the notion is simple: When you are able to be compensated for your nom de plume costs of attending the con are better covered. Money in one’s pocket, when the per-page rate isn’t pulling in proper piles of cash, is always preferred. And in the cases where a Sharpied autograph equals a rise in the value of the item it’s adorned on, the signature is merely an investment. Who could argue with having to pay $5, 10, or 30 dollars for a name, when it nets the owner $50, 100, or 200 more in potential payouts? No one should argue. That’s called good business. And let’s be fair: if you’re willing to part with a finsky for the signature of a Hollywood celebrity, why wouldn’t you do the same for the author a favorite comic?
What if the answer to that aforementioned rhetorical question was no? Well, you’d be in the “Team Free!” camp. And you’d be just as right as those crazy capitalists across the lake. Some creators who get their table space at these conventions are compensated to attend by their publishers or the convention promotors themselves – who know that their presence yields higher attendance. Charging a fan for a signature inflates the value of a comic sure, but it also takes money out of their pocket they might spend elsewhere in the convention.
Like at a smaller indie table, where they might give a chance to a new book they’ve never seen before. By not charging, there’s a potential butterfly effect to pay it forward within our comic community. That’s good karma. And if that signature on the book is for a retailer who turns that issue into more profit… the same karma applies. I bet the day Dennis Barger mints a hefty payday for his efforts is another day his comic shop stays open. And that in turn increases the potential for him to sell more comics to more kids. See the bigger picture?
Let’s also not forget: It takes seconds to adorn an issue with a scribble. To charge for that scribble, no matter how important you may or may not be can seen unseemly to some. Say that three times fast. If you do though, I’ll have to charge you.
Obviously it boils down to a personal choice. Some creators are too humble to charge for an autograph. Others embrace the entrepreneurial spirit. There isn’t necessarily a wrong choice here. And for those who posit that having some creators charge while others abstain unnecessarily devalues those creators who do… they aren’t wrong in thinking that. If a fan sees Neal Adams charging $30 for a signature next to Scott Snyder charging nothing but a smile? Well, some fans will scoop up a few more Court of the Owls trades and walk away with a few more shekels in their pocket. But, as with everything here, It’s their choice to do so.
Of course, this is where I should chime in, right?
In my own little swatch of ComicTopia, my name is worth spit. If someone wants it on something I created? Well, I’m damn flattered, and it comes at no increase in cost. And I can’t personally see any future where I’m not willing to sign for the same Free-Ninety-Nine I do now. Because frankly I don’t foresee any future where Marc Alan Fishman is a commodity like Neal Adams. And that’s perfectly OK by me. Subsequently as a fan, I’m not a seeker of autographs at any price. While I might be tempted to see Alex Ross or Mike Mignola scrawl their name on any of the well-kept tomes I own of theirs… I’m honestly too cheap to consider trading hard-earned disposable income over said scrawl. The opportunity cost isn’t greater than the enjoyment I’d sooner have taking the exact same money and buying more of their work at full retail. But then again, that’s just me. And because of that opinion – which many share – it’s not taking money out of another creator’s pocket. Because that money would never reach it that way over the sloppy drag of a felt tip marker. Maybe I’m missing out on some would-be profit. Or maybe I’m just not the target demo. Either way, I’m entitled to think that way.
Next week is Banned Books Week! This means now is your chance to take everything you learned in our 8-Week #ChallengedChallenge and use that knowledge to fight the good fight. Let every one know about why banning and challenging books is bad. Maybe even go to your local library or book store and find a banned book to read. (We’ve created a great display at our local library for next week & we’re sure others will have them as well).
And if you are one of those people who don’t trust a couple of kids about such a serious subject, we’ve brought in the big guns. At San Diego Comic Con, we spoke with Editorial Director, Betsy Gomez from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund about why people try to ban books and had her show us some of their resources available to help those who find their reading rights are being taken away. Hey! And if you are a libraian or teacher this video is a great resource too, btw.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is our penultimate book in the ComicMix Challenged Challenge — and probably our favorite book of the bunch. This is a first hand account of Marjane’s childhood in pre- and post-revolutionary Iran. This graphic novel not only takes the roots of very serious current events issue and breaks it down so kids like us can understand it, but it is a total page-turner. Sure, it’s violent — but we are talking about war, and as far as wars go, this isn’t really very violent at all. This is a lot less violent than what we would see on the news.
Ironically, this book was most recently challenged by a community college student and her parents (Helicopter your adult kid much, Mom & Dad? Geez!) for it’s violence because she was expecting Batman and Robin in her graphic novel lit class. This brings up the subject of why it’s okay for fictional superhero comics to be violent, but not those about real life? We are so confused.
This book was also called out for language. But what gets us mad is that most of the bad language comes from what people said in catcalling (well, more like verbally abusing) Marjane’s mom for not wearing her veil and later for conservative women name-calling Marjane and others. This is how it went down with those words. The words are what makes it cruel and scary. These are not words the average middle schooler has never heard before and unfortunately lots of women here are called these bad names too. Can we talk about those actions first, then worry about the language? If it is so upsetting, then fix the problem, don’t ban the description of it.
There is so much to say, which we do in the video. If you haven’t read Persepolis, please do.
It’s Week Four, which means we are at the half-way mark of the ComicMix Challenged Challenge. This week we take on The Graveyard Book Vol. 1, the graphic novel based on Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name. This witty and compelling story was enhanced by P. Craig Russell’s graphic adaptation which includes amazing artwork by different artists in each chapter. We couldn’t help but love this book. We also couldn’t help but be confused as to why the CBLDF had to defend this touching book about a boy being raised by ghosts from being banned at a middle school. As middle schoolers ourselves, we don’t get it. We think maybe those who were so concerned with a few panels of blood missed the point of the story altogether. Not to mention that for the genre and for our age group, this book is not in the least bit shocking. Watch our discussion about why this book deserves to be read by everyone who choses to do so.
For week #3 of the ComicMix Challenged Challenge, we discuss This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki. This Caldecott Medal winner was challenged because some over-conscended parents didn’t bother to read the book jacket, assumed this ages 12 & up recommended book was meant for their young readers. Duh! So, yeah, we talk about that, why we loved the book, and what might be questionable if you are worried about the subject matter for you kids. Watch and learn and definitely read This One Summer!
It is officially summer for us! Yay! So, we thought this would be the perfect time to tell you about our summer reading plans. In this week’s episode, we tell you about the CBLDF and announce our Challenged Graphic Novel Reading Challenge. Our hope is that kids and parents (and everyone else) will read along with us. Because you seriously can’t question that book be suitable for library shelves if you haven’t read it, right?
This summer we will be reading 8 graphic novels that have been challenged or banned in school libraries and then every week we will discuss one of the titles. We’ll talk about why it was challenged, how to best talk about the questioned topics or themes in the book with your kids. We’ll also tell you from a kid’s perspective how we viewed the appropriateness of the books for us, because sometimes adults forget what they could handle and understand when they were our age.
We also hope that you will support everyone’s right to choose what they want to read by doing some sleuthing in your local or school library. Take a look at our reading list and see which of the books are available for you to check out. You can post your findings in Social Media like Facebook and Twitter (@ComicMix and @The_Tweeks) with #InTheStacks and/or #ComicMixChallengedChallenge, hopefully generating further discussion. We also think you should check out the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s site. We talk more about them in the episode.