Tagged: CBLDF

Ed Catto: Look Who’s Talking … or Who Should Be

It can be a pretty disappointing world out there. So often, our real word heroes stumble and reveal they are less than what they appeared to be. We see it all the time with politicians in whom we had once believed, celebrities we had once admired and even with high profile people who may have not even been on our radar until their fall from grace. “He really tweeted that?” “I can’t believe she said that to a parking attendant!” “Didn’t she know there was a camera recording it all?” These are just a few sentences we’ve recently uttered in exasperation around our household.

On the other hand, one of the cool things about fictional characters is that it’s unlikely that they’ll misbehave. It’s no secret in advertising that using a fictional spokesperson relieves a marketer of the fears of using a real-life spokesperson. When was the last time Tony the Tiger was caught in a compromising position by the paparazzi? I can’t imagine the Lone Ranger getting into drunken brawls. Of course, one of the actors who played him did. But another actor, Clayton Moore, took the role so seriously that in public he always made efforts to present his best self, understanding that he was representing the heroic ideals of honesty, kindness and selflessness exemplified by the Lone Ranger.

But I’m not going to simply go on about how most superheroes are depictions of good people and provide good role models. Like Geico always tells us, everyone knows that. Superman is a good fella and we should all strive to be honest like him. But there’s a bigger idea here.

Now that we’re in graduation season, when many of us will be listening to impressive graduation speeches (I just heard General Major Charles F. Bolden, Jr. of NASA speak at Gettysburg), a wry thought came to mind.

I’m realizing that one of the greatest strengths of 21st century heroic fiction found in so many comics and geek-focused movies is that not only do the heroes do the right things, but that they do things. They are doers. They are purposeful. I’m thinking of so many of protagonists (and antagonists) and realizing they have a baked-in entrepreneurial spirit and a clear sense of purpose. Nobody tells a superhero to create a brand, sew a costume and go on nightly patrol, but they do. There’s no corporation telling the Avengers they have to avenge, the Defenders they have to defend or the Teen Titans that they have to ..umm..Titan. But they do.

Looking beyond the traditional superhero formula from the big companies, we can see similar themes. Mark Millar’s Chrononauts are self-motivated and ambitious. Ed Brubaker and Steven Epting’s character Velvet is smart, canny and self-directed with an urgent sense of purpose. Valiant’s Kay McHenry is a courageous woman who’s ready to step into a bigger job.

And taking it a step further, what about the creative folks behind it all? Fast Company voted Kelly Sue DeConnick of Ms. Marvel and Bitch Planet as one of the most creative people in business. Mike Pellerito, the president of Archie Comics, seems to be always looing at the toys in his toy box and asking, “What if we did something different?” A guy like IDW’s Dirk Wood brings an off-the-chart level of personal passion and impish mischievousness to his publisher’s efforts and to the industry in general. CBLDF’s super-intelligent Alex Cox educates while fighting for the right of creative expression. Retailer Marc Hammond, of Skokie’s Aw Yeah Comics, puts it all on the line every day by creating an immensely enjoyable retail experience for hard-core fans, casual first timers and kids of all ages. And these folks are just the tip of the iceberg.

These great characters, both the real ones and the fictional ones, all have a personal passion. And more than that – they all share the very best qualities of entrepreneurship: persistence, adaptability, strong work ethic and the abilities to communicate and inspire. As I’m thinking about what kind of stuff to fill my head with, I’d argue that comic heroes and their creators’ messages are the healthiest “foods for your mind” in all of pop culture. Better than politicians. Better than celebrities. Better than movie stars. There’s innovative creativity to be sure, but it’s wrapped in the classic can-do attitude that’s at the heart of it and is at the heart of American business.

You know, the luminaries of geek culture can provide great ideas to next year’s graduation planners about the very best types of role models…and doers.


Martha Thomases: Resolution For The Hell Of It

ReadIf you are still hungover, you have my sympathies. If you have never been hungover, you get an evolving mixture of envy and pity. No matter. The new year is upon us.

This is the time of year when some of us, nagged by memories of elementary school homework assignments, make resolutions to improve ourselves in the year ahead. In general, my resolutions involve drinking more water and tossing more cat-toys (Selina likes to play “fetch”), but one change I made last year was awesome and I’d like to recommend it to you.

Every week, when I go for my weekly comics fix, I try to find at least one new book to try. I don’t manage to do it every week, but I bet I sampled 40 new titles last year. Some I didn’t like, but spending 15 or 20 minutes reading something different is not a horrible fate.

It’s easy for me to try something new because I’ve been reading the same (more or less) superhero comics for nearly six decades. Lots of titles that has been accepted by cooler people than me for decades is new to me. Still, there are books that were new in 2014 that I’ll be sticking with.

As you may recall, my budget can stand this experimentation because I’m no longer buying books that aren’t fun anymore. For me, fun books have different perspectives. Anything can happen.

It may be that this is the year that the industry is taking the same message to heart. I mean, there has been a part of the comic book business that published unconventional stories by unconventional creators since at least the counter-culture of the 1960s. And it’s not unusual for writers and artists associated with the underground to get a gig above, and vice versa.

What is unusual is for these writers and artists not to be straight white men. After years and years (and decades) of talk, there is finally a significant segment of the creative community that can get pregnant, or not, depending on circumstances and choice. Along with more women who write and draw, there seems to my (perhaps inaccurate) eye also be an increase in the number of female editors, assistant editors and associates.

It doesn’t seem to me that there has been a parallel increase in visible participation by people of color, but the subject isn’t going to meekly go away anytime soon. I think that now, more than ever, we need creators who can bring a non-white perspective to the “good guys/bad guys” dynamic of so much comic book plots.

Another excellent resolution for the new year is to commit yourself to the growth of our industry, both at a retail level (including libraries) and a personal, helping level . Our industry is not alone in the commercial arts in treating talent like so many disposable widgets, but that doesn’t mean that we have to stand for it.

Hoping your 2015 gives you better stories.



Pay-what-you-want Humble Image Bundle to benefit CBLDF

We’re removing Google AdSense until they reinstate The Beat

We’re removing Google AdSense until they reinstate The Beat

Okay, two can play that game. We’re taking off all of our ads from Google until they reinstate The Beat. We call on other comic sites to do the same.

In related thoughts, have you donated to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund lately?

Gaiman’s Neverwhere Nevermore?

cbldfAccording to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Alamogordo Public Schools banned Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere last week after one parent filed a complaint over the book, claiming the content was “rated R” and inappropriate for her 15-year-old daughter.

Gaiman’s classic work has been on the school’s reading list for nine years and this is the first complaint that’s been received. Evidently, the parent did not take issue with the entire novel, just the word “fuck” found twice on page 86. It is not known if the same parent took umbrage with J.D. Salinger’s award-winning 1951 novel Catcher In The Rye, which was assigned reading in this writer’s high school back in 1966. It, too, offers the same word.

The CBLDF has taken on the cause of freeing Neverwhere for 15 year-olds in New Mexico, and Gaiman issued the following response:

I’m obviously disappointed that the parent in question didn’t talk to the teacher or accept the teacher’s offer of an alternative book for her daughter, and has instead worked to stop anyone else’s children reading a book that’s been in the school system successfully for almost a decade. On the other hand I’m impressed that this parent has managed to find sex and violence in Neverwhere that everyone else had somehow missed – including the entire city of Chicago, when they made Neverwhere the book that was read by adults and children alike all through the city Spring 2011’s One Book One Chicago program.

But mostly I feel sorry for anyone excited enough by the banning to go to Neverwhere in search of “R-Rated” action. It’s a fine adventure, I think, with some sensible social points, and perhaps some good jokes and characters — but it’s very gentle stuff.

For more information, check out the CBLDF’s website.

ComicsPRO Retailers Celebrate Banned Books Week!

ComicsPRO Retailers Celebrate Banned Books Week!

Banned Books Week, the national celebration of the Freedom to Read, starts this Sunday!  Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is a sponsor of Banned Books Week, and will be joined in the celebration by members of ComicsPRO, the comics retailer trade association who will be hosting displays and events to raise awareness of the comics that have been banned and challenged!

Participating retailers are:


Corner Store Comics  Banned Comics display


Muse Comics + Games    Banned Comics display, plus thank you gifts for members signing up for CBLDF Membership!


BSI Comics    Banned Comics Party on October 5!  Plus display and discussion group, CBLDF membership drive and an auction!


Southern Fried Comics     Banned Comics shirts & display.  For every $5 donation, customers will go in the draw to win a banned books gift pack (and we’ll get 10% off their purchases).


The Splash Page    Banned Comics Display, plus thank you gifts for members signing up for CBLDF Membership!
Muse Comics  Banned Comics Display, plus thank you gifts for members signing up for CBLDF Membership!


Laughing Ogre Comics   Banned Comics display!


Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy   Banned Comics Readout on Wednesday October 3rd starting at 6:00PM. Additionally,  a display of banned graphic novels up all week with case files for people to read and a membership drive!


Laughing Ogre Comics  Banned Comics display!

Are you doing a Banned Books Week event?  Would you like to get in on the fun and host one?  Email us at info@cbldf.org and put Banned Books Week in the subject and we’ll add you to our list!  If you’re looking for ways to get involved, check out our How You Can Help page.  Want to spread the word?  Here’s some handy signage you can print out, and here’s a brochure you can print to spread the word!


Banned Comic Books for Banned Books Week

(In honor of Banned Books Week (September 30-October 6, 2012) we are reprinting this list from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and will be reprinting lots of stuff from them over the coming week to highlight their efforts. Donate now! —CM)

Banned Books Week is upon us, and it’s telling that the event is more relevant than ever in its 30th year. Given their visual nature and the rampantly held misconception that comic books are for children, comics are among the most challenged and banned books in libraries and schools. Let’s take a look at some frequently challenged and banned comics…

Amazing Spider-Man: Revelations by J. Michael Straczynski, John Romita, Jr., and Scott Hanna

• Location of key challenge: A middle-school library in Millard, Nebraska

• Reason challenged: Sexual overtones

The parent of a 6-year-old who checked out the book filed a complaint and took the story to the media; the parent also withheld the book for the duration of the review process rather than returning it per library policy.

Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley


• Location of key challenge: Stark County District Library in Canton, Ohio

• Reason challenged: Sexism, offensive language, and unsuited to age group

Despite the challenge, the library retained the book and now holds two copies, which are shelved in the Teen section.

Blankets by Craig Thompson


• Location of key challenge: The public library in Marshall, Missouri

• Reason challenged: Obscene images

CBLDF wrote a letter to the Marshall library on behalf of Blankets and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, playing a key role in keeping both books on shelves.

Bone by Jeff Smith


• Location of key challenge: Independent School District 196 in Rosemount, Minnesota

• Reason challenged: Promotion of smoking and drinking

A letter from Jeff Smith decrying the attempted ban of his book was read aloud at the library review committee’s hearing, and the challenge was ultimately rejected by a 10-1 vote, to the praise of Smith and the CBLDF.

Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama


• Location of key challenge: All public school libraries in Wicomico County, Maryland

• Reason challenged: Violence and nudity

The library review committee recommended that the books in the Dragon Ball series, which were recommended by the publisher for ages 13+, be removed from the entire public school library system, including at the high school level.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel 


• Location of key challenge: The public library in Marshall, Missouri

• Reason challenged: Obscene images

CBLDF wrote a letter to the Marshall library on behalf of Fun Home and Craig Thompson’s Blankets, playing a key role in keeping both books on shelves.

Ice Haven by Daniel Clowes


• Location of key challenge: A high school in Guilford, Connecticut

• Reason challenged: Profanity, course language, and brief non-sexual nudity

A high school teacher was forced to resign from his job after a parent filed both a complaint with the school and a police complaint against the teacher for lending a high school freshman a copy of Eightball #22, which was later published as the graphic novel Ice Haven.

In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak


• Location of key challenge: Multiple locations

• Reason challenged: Nudity

In the Night Kitchen was not often removed from shelves; instead, librarians censored it by painting underwear or diapers over the genitals of the main character, a precocious child named Mickey.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill


• Location of key challenge: Jessamine County Public Library in Kentucky

• Reason challenged: Sex scenes

Two employees of the Jessamine County Public Library in Kentucky were fired after they took it upon themselves to withhold the library’s copy of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier from circulation because they felt it was pornographic.

Maus by Art Spiegelman


• Location of key challenge: Pasadena Public Library in Pasadena, California

• Reason challenged: Anti-ethnic and unsuited for age group

Nick Smith of the Pasadena Public Library describes the challenge as being “made by a Polish-American who is very proud of his heritage, and who had made other suggestions about adding books on Polish history… The thing is, Maus made him uncomfortable, so he didn’t want other people to read it. That is censorship, as opposed to parental guidance.”

Neonomicon by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows


• Location of key challenge: The public library in Greenville, South Carolina

• Reason challenged: Sexual content

Despite giving her 14-year-old daughter permission to check out the book, which was appropriately shelved in the adult section of the library, a mother filed a complaint, claiming the book was “pornographic.” CBLDF wrote a letter in support of the book, but it remains out of circulation pending review.

Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughn and Niko Henrichon


• Location of key challenge: Various

• Reason challenged: Sexual content

Despite receiving high praise from the ALA and Booklist and featuring a cast consisting of animals, the book has been challenged at libraries for sexual content.

Sandman by Neil Gaiman and various artists

• Location of key challenge: Various

• Reason challenged: Anti-family themes, offensive language, and unsuited for age group

When asked about how he felt when Sandman was labelled unsuitable for teens, Gaiman responded, “I suspect that having a reputation as adult material that’s unsuitable for teens will probably do more to get teens to read Sandman than having the books ready and waiting on the YA shelves would ever do.”

SideScrollers by Matthew Loux


• Location of key challenge: The public school district in Enfield, Connecticut

• Reason challenged: Profanity and sexual references

The school district removed the book from non-compulsory summer reading lists, possibly violating its own review policy, which states in part that “no parent nor group of parents has the right to negate the use of educational resources for students other than his/her own child.” CBLDF wrote a letter in support of the book and is still awaiting a response from the school board.

Stuck in the Middle, edited by Ariel Schrag


• Location of key challenge: The public school system in Dixfield, Maine

• Reason challenged: Language, sexual content, and drug references

CBLDF wrote a letter in support of the book, and the school board voted to leave the book on library shelves with the caveat the students must have parental permission to check out the book. “While we’re pleased to see the book retained in the library’s collection, we’re very disappointed that it is retained with restrictions,” said Executive Director Charles Brownstein.

Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse

• Location of key challenge: Montgomery County Memorial Library System, Texas

• Reason challenged: Depiction of homosexuality

The book was challenged alongside 15 other young adult books with gay positive themes. The book was ultimately retained in the Montgomery County system, but was reclassified from Young Adult to Adult.

Tank Girl by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett


• Location of key challenge: Hammond Public Library in Hammond, Indiana

• Reason challenged: Nudity and violence

The Tank Girl books are meant to entertain an adult audience, frequently depicting violence, flatulence, vomiting, sex, and drug use. After the 2009 challenge, the Hammond Public Library chose to retain the book, and it remains on shelves today.

The Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa


• Location of key challenge: Various

• Reason challenged: Nudity, sexual content, and unsuited to age group

When the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom released their list of the Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2011, the second-most challenged book on that list was The Color of Earth, the first book of a critically-acclaimed Korean manwha, or comic book, series.

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons


• Location of key challenge: Various

• Reason challenged: Unsuited to age group

Watchmenreceived a Hugo Award in 1988 and was instrumental in garnering more respect and shelf space for comics and graphic novels in libraries and mainstream bookstores. The inclusion of Watchmen in school library collections has been challenged by parents at least twice, according to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

Given their visual nature, graphic novels and comic books are among the most-challenged books in libraries and schools. CBLDF is an official sponsor of Banned Books Week, which takes place September 30 – October 6, 2012. Please help support CBLDF’s defense of your right to read by making a donation or becoming a member of the CBLDF!

Marc Alan Fishman: Wizard World Redemption

Hello, everyone! After last week, I figured it’d only be fair that I give Wizard World a little hand up, since I was so quick to toss them into the gutter. Suffice to say I saw a ton of responses via Facebook, Twitter, etc. in support of my disappointing feelings at this past Wizard World Chicago. So, with all eyes from their ivory tower now squarely pointed at me*, I shall make an epic journey for Wizard, giving them the laundry list of things I’d like to see them do to reclaim their former convention glory.

Remember what started this whole shebang – comic books. Just because you can’t lay claim to the publishing giants does not mean with some delicate planning, you can’t land the amazing creators behind said publishers. Suffice to say, if you bring them, the fans will come. People love Marvel and DC. But they don’t come to the convention just because there’s a chance to see DC Direct action figures and snag some Marvel posters. More often than not? The mainstay of your crowd – the real comic fans – want a chance to meet the creators behind their favorite book. Whatever Wizard did to shun so many artists and writers? Well, it’s time to send out some apologetic gift baskets, and comp the way for the names that will draw in the most people.

And if you should be so lucky to entice a gaggle of cool creators, the next step is simple: plan a convention that celebrates the medium through intelligent discussion and good old-fashioned fun. What this means? Programming. Even in the larger convention halls, your crowd can peruse the show floor in about two hours, if they take it slow. This means that there is time in every show-goers’ schedule to enjoy something more than just spending their money.

In my youth, I recall amazingly fun panels: the Silver Age Trivia Contest, hosted by Mark Waid, the CBLDF Sketch-off, where top names like Jim Lee and Phil Hester jammed on audience suggestions for charity, as well as countless “how-to” panels where small gatherings of 50 or so fans got live demonstrations on everything from digital inking to script writing. At their core, the conventions are here to celebrate comics, not (just) corral all our cash.

Next up on the list? The non-comic stuff. Hey, I freely admit that these shows have grown to encapsulate all of Nerdtopia. And it’s cool if the show plays well with others. Comic geeks are also Trekkies, Jedis, Whovians, Vampires, and Otaku. So bring on the D-List Sci-Fi Channel celebutaunts. Bring on the retired WWE wrestlers. Create a dais of former Starfleet Captains and Wookies. Just don’t make them the sole reason to come. And better yet? Find a way to reduce the gouging. No need to pay for a show floor ticket, if you’re only there for some pictures. In the past, there was a nice area off the main floor where photo ops and autograph seekers could assemble. Do it again and you can bring back something all good shows have… a laid back traffic flow, instead of a jam of fanny packs and unwashed masses.

The last bit I’d like to touch on is something I yearn for: the promotion of the little guy. For a company like mine, these conventions are the single best way for us to gain a following. We sell books, hard, and do our best to connect to every fan that walks past our table and makes eye contact. With just a little help from show promoters (ahem, Wizard World…) we “indie guys” could have access to the fans en masse. And that could make all the difference in the world. Back when Wizard was huge, tickets came with a grab bag of materials. Offer the opportunity for indie creators to make samplers to place in these bags. Offer up panels to unknowns, who can help lead discussions, debates, tutorials, and demos. Con attendees interested in the content alone might then be converted into legit fans.

In short, Wizard World is well within the grasp of greatness. A few apologies, a few comps, and a few good planners could help take their show from the doldrums their in right now, and slowly rebuild them to be what they once were. The first step though is to admit there’s a problem. As the industry slowly crawls towards the advent of creator-owned content, the convention circuit will quickly become the single best way to connect fans to the industry. Don’t lose sight of that just because you can nab Sookie for a few autographs. We’re the reason these shows started, and dag nabbit, we’re the ones who can make them great again.

* I’m safely assuming that Wizard scours the net for mentions of their cons, and have no doubt flagged me as a ne’er-do-well on their hit list.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


ERROR 451: This Page Has Been Burned

It’s just another average day of internet browsing. You’re doing your thing, checking the news, maybe taking a detour to your favorite webcomic. Then, WHAM (or rather, the internet version of said sound effect).

ERROR 451.

What happened? Did the servers overload? Did the connection crash? Is the address wrong?

No; this page has been burned.

Error 451 is a new HTTP Error status code proposed by Google developer advocate Tim Bray. The code would pop up the same way an Error 404 code does — except instead of being told a page could not be found, a viewer would be informed that the site is being censored.

The number is an homage to Ray Bradbury‘s Fahrenheit 451, which takes place in a dystopian future in which firemen burn books because the government has declared reading illegal.

According to Wired’s WebMonkey blog, the biggest advantage of the 451 code is that it would explain why content is unavailable — such as which legal authority is imposing the restriction. This would let visitors know that the government, not the Internet Service Provider, is the reason for the page’s malfunction.  Currently, 403 errors are most often used when blocking access to censored pages.

Error code 451 would pop up in situations such as the Indian government’s censorship of the site Cartoonists Against Corruption, which was blocked because its critique of the government was deemed “defamatory and derogatory.”

The biggest problem with the code, Bray admits, is that many governments are not fond of the idea of transparent censorship. So, if we’re lucky — or not? — this code may be popping up in our browsers in the future.

Please help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work and reporting on issues such as this by making a donation or becoming a member of the CBLDF!

Becca Hoekstra is studying journalism in San Francisco, California.


Join the CBLDF Website Team!

Join the CBLDF Website Team!

Just last week, the CBLDF website was recognized by Tom Spurgeon with The Comics Reporter for our “content explosion,” and we want to do more! CBLDF is looking for contributors to add to our already spectacular roster of bloggers. Whether you’re a journalism student looking for experience, a passionate fan of comics and Free Speech, or an educator and librarian who wants to share your experiences, CBLDF is looking for your voice!

Each member of our website team will be asked to identify and/or generate content about relevant Free Speech issues for www.cbldf.org on a weekly or semiweekly basis under editorial guidance from the Web Editor. The Web Editor may assign specific articles for coverage, but contributors will otherwise have flexibility in choosing what they write about. Our current contributors cover stories and generate original posts that run the gamut from the history of comics censorship to the international suppression of cartooning voices.

The blogging positions are voluntary. Articles will be seen by visitors to www.cbldf.org and cross-posted on CBLDF’s Facebook page, Twitter feed, and weekly newsletter, ensuring that several thousand people will see the articles. Contributors will be able to work from anywhere, set their own schedules, build writing and blogging experience, and boost their resumes. In doing so, contributors will support the important First Amendment work of CBLDF.

If you are enthusiastic about the First Amendment, a good writer, and able to take editorial direction, you’re a perfect candidate — apply today!

To apply, please send your resume and a writing sample to betsy.gomez@cbldf.org.

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the First Amendment rights of the comics artform and its community of retailers, creators, publishers, librarians, and readers. The CBLDF provides legal referrals, representation, advice, assistance, and education in furtherance of these goals.