Tagged: CBLDF

Men Arrested in India for E-Mailing Cartoon

Men Arrested in India for E-Mailing Cartoon

When Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra e-mailed a cartoon mocking an Indian politician to friends, he probably didn’t expect to be arrested by local police in a midnight raid. Appallingly, Mahapatra and neighbor Subrata Sengupta were arrested in such a raid in April, and their case comes to trial in September. In response to the arrests, the West Bengal Human Rights Commission has asked authorities to take disciplinary action against the arresting officers and to compensate the men for their discomfort.

The Times of India shared the story, writing:

The duo got bail the next day, but the uproar caused by the arrests led to the WBHRC taking up the case on its own. The recommendations, which came on Monday, are, however, not binding on the government. Neither will they have any bearing on the ongoing case, which will come up for hearing at Alipore court on September 27. The three-member WBHRC is headed by Justice (retd) Asok Kumar Ganguly, who was part of the two-judge Supreme Court bench that delivered the 2G verdict earlier this year. Its other members are Justice (retd) N C Sil and S N Roy.

Quoting Jawaharlal Nehru, the commission said, “Nehru once said ‘it is good to have the veil of our conceit torn occasionally’. Referring to veteran cartoonist Shankar, Nehru also said, ‘Don’t spare me’”. Wondering why Mahapatra and Sengupta were victimized when “even during Emergency, when pre-censorship of the press was imposed, pre-censorship on cartoons was lifted after the first the first three months”, it found additional officer-in-charge Milan Das and sub-inspector Sanjay Biswas of East Jadavpur police station guilty of wrongful detention.

The Times further described the “crime” the men were accused of:

“At the time of their arrest, only allegations… were that they circulated by email a cartoon which was derogatory to hon’ble chief minister… Our constitution protects every citizen’s fundamental right of free speech and expression… No law in our country prevents criticism against ministers of chief minister however popular they may be or even a door-to-door critical campaign against ministers,” the WBHRC order said.

The commission found nothing wrong with the spoof. “This cartoon obviously referred to the recent political events in the aftermath of removal of Mr Dinesh Trivedi … and the appointment of Mr Mukul Roy. No one can attribute even remotely any suggestion which is lewd or indecent and slang … in respect of the subject. Therefore the case against those persons under Section 509 IPC prima facie does not lie,” it observed, questioning the grounds for framing of charges.

Mahapatra believes the arrests were retaliation ordered by someone superior to the arresting policemen and is protesting the arrest to prevent future harassment by officials. For more details on the case, visit The Times of India website here.



Few countries protect Free Speech as adamantly as the United States does, and censorship has a chilling effect worldwide. 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!

Betsy Gomez is the Web Editor for CBLDF.

SDCC: CBLDF’s Comic-Con Welcome Party!

Kick off Comic-Con with the greatest stars in comics to celebrate 20 Years of Image Comics and the power of free expression at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Comic-Con Welcome Party! Starting at 8:00 PM on Thursday, July 12 at the Westgate Hotel, the CBLDF Comic-Con Welcome Party is jam-packed with amazing people and cool stuff! This party is sponsored by Image Comics, TFAW.Com, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, & Threadless!

Experience Creativity with Image Comics greats including:
Ales Kot, Amanda Conner, Ben McCool, Ben Templesmith, Brandon Seifert, Charles Soule, Chris Giarrusso, Cory Walker, Dan Brereton, Darick Robertson, Deborah Vankin, Dexter Weeks, Dirk Manning, Edwin Huang,Eric Shanower, Eric Stephenson, Erik Larsen, Gerry Duggan, Glen Brunswick, Jim Mahfood, Jim McCann, Jim Valentino, Jim Zub, Jimmy Palmiotti, Joe Keatinge, John Layman, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Joshua Williamson, Kody Chamberlain, Kurtis Wiebe, Mark Poulton,Matt Hawkins, Michael Moreci, Moritat, Nate Bellegarde, Nathan Edmondson, Phil Noto, Richard Starkings, Ron Marz, S. Steven Struble, Scott Tuft, Sina Grace, Steve Seeley, and many more!

revival-cover-low-res-195x300-1364256Get The Exclusive Goods: Free gift bag, featuring a CBLDF party exclusive edition of Revival #1 by Tim Seeley & Mike Norton from Image Comics, and other special thank yous from CBLDF supporters including Valiant and Threadless!

See The World Premiere of “The Day The Saucers Came:” Be the first to see the latest Comics-On Tees from Threadless featuring Neil Gaiman’s “The Day The Saucers Came,” featuring artwork by John Cassaday, Brandon Graham & Ben Templesmith at a special fashion show! Get your tees straight from the source at the party!

Smell Awesome At The Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Trading Post: BPAL will make their only Comic-Con appearance at the party, setting up a one-night only display of fragrances, including the world premiere of new fragrances based on Neil Gaiman’s Coraline!

Check Out The Amazing Items In CBLDF’s Comic-Con Auction, sponsored by TFAW.Com & Valiant Comics:
Check out all the amazing original art up for grabs at Saturday’s CBLDF Comic-Con Auction live!

Come support Free Speech and experience the best of Comic-Con at the CBLDF Comic-Con Welcome Party Thursday at the Westgate Hotel, 1055 Second Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101 from 8 PM to 11 PM! This party is FREE for CBLDF Members. Non-Members, suggested $10 – $20 donation at the door, please.

Image Comics is a comic book and graphic novel publisher founded in 1992 by a collective of best-selling artists. Image has since gone on to become one of the largest comics publishers in the United States. Image currently has five partners: Robert Kirkman, Erik Larsen, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri and Jim Valentino. It consists of five major houses: Todd McFarlane Productions, Top Cow Productions, Shadowline, Skybound and Image Central. Image publishes comics and graphic novels in nearly every genre, sub-genre, and style imaginable. It offers science fiction, romance, horror, crime fiction, historical fiction, humor and more by the finest artists and writers working in the medium today. For more information, visit www.imagecomics.com.

We’re awesome people from all over the world who make mind-blowing art. Our process starts when a great idea is born in an artist’s mind. (That could be you, that could even be your grannie!) The artist submits their idea to our site, where our community of 1.5 million debates, discusses, and votes on that idea. If the idea gets a really good score, we make it into a tee, tote, hoody, or tube sock. (That last one isn’t true… yet.) Then, as long as folks keep buying that product, we keep rewarding that artist with loadsa money, prizes, and exposure. So people who buy from us support great artists and their great ideas. Neat, huh? Join us at Threadless.com. Threadless ~ Make Great Together.

Founded in 1979, Things From Another World is the premier retailer of comics, toys, collectibles, and pop-culture geek goodness, both in Portland, Oregon and online at http://www.TFAW.com.

We specialize in formulating body and household blends with a dark, romantic Gothic tone. Our scents run the aesthetic gamut of magickal, pagan and mythological blends, Renaissance, Medieval and Victorian formulas, and horror / Gothic-themed scents. By utilizing our knowledge of homeopathy and aromatherapy, the conceptual theories of hermetic alchemy, and the aesthetic artistry of perfumery, we have mastered the art of encapsulating allegorical ideas into singular olfactory experiences. We are the first of our kind, and have over fifteen years of practical experience in the field. Our expertise shows.

We pride ourselves on the artistry of our products, and our skill in their creation. All of our products are hand-blended here in our laboratory. Integrity and dedication is vitally important to us, and we do our best to provide the best possible product and slavishly good service to all our clients.

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the First Amendment rights of the comics art form 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.

Manga Friday: CBLDF Contributes Additional $10,000 to Ryan Matheson’s $75,000 Legal Defense Costs

Manga Friday: CBLDF Contributes Additional $10,000 to Ryan Matheson’s $75,000 Legal Defense Costs

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is pleased to announce that thanks to the support of its contributors, the organization has disbursed an additional $10,000 to Ryan Matheson to help pay off the $75,000 legal defense costs that he incurred defending himself against false charges brought by Canada Customs in a case involving manga comics on his laptop computer.

Earlier this year, charges against Matheson were dropped in a case where Canada Customs illegally detained and wrongly charged the American with importation of child pornography for humor and fantasy manga on his laptop. The CBLDF came to Ryan’s aid in 2011, providing substantive and financial support for his case, including arranging expert testimony that contributed to the charges being dropped. With this most recent disbursal, the CBLDF has provided $30,000 to Ryan’s $75,000 legal defense costs. Last year, Canada’s Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund contributed $11,000 towards Ryan’s defense. CBLDF seeks contributions to help pay off Ryan’s remaining $34,000 in legal expenses.

In a message to CBLDF supporters, Matheson says, “Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to the CBLDF! The donations raised so far have given me enough financial stability to finally get back on my feet and live my life normally instead of worrying about money so much. It’s really encouraging to know that there are so many people out there that want to help stand up for comics and manga. I used to feel so isolated and alone but now I’ve realized that the comics and manga community is definitely one that cares about the things we love and is willing to stand up for our rights. Your donations really do help a lot and I am so grateful for all the support I’ve received so far. Thank you!”

After a search of his laptop in 2010, Canada Customs wrongfully accused Ryan of possessing and importing child pornography because of constitutionally protected comic book images on that device. This case represented a severe disruption in his life, including a two-year period during which he was unable to use computers or the internet outside of his job, severely limiting opportunities to advance his employment and education. Ryan suffered extreme mistreatment at the hands of Canadian authorities, and was subjected to abusive treatment by police. Matheson’s cruel and unusual punishment included being denied food and blankets, and not being allowed to contact the American Embassy. Matheson was even told by police transporting him to prison that “if you get raped in here, it doesn’t count!” The defense detailed these and other abuses and outlined that the comics at issue are constitutionally protected in the United States, the client’s home country, contributing to the charges being dropped earlier this year.

This summer, Matheson will be appearing on panels at San Diego Comic-Con and Otakon to discuss his case, where CBLDF will also be distributing literature advising convention goers of their rights.

CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein says, “The CBLDF is elated that our efforts have made a difference in Ryan’s case, and we’re grateful that our supporters have generously contributed to our efforts to pay off expenses tied to his legal defense. We are moved by Ryan’s courage in speaking out on his case, and look forward to working with him this summer as we go on the road to help raise awareness of how comics and manga are still being targeted by the authorities. We’re glad that his case had a positive outcome, but comics are still vulnerable to attack. It is our hope that our efforts will help prevent others from suffering the same fate that befell Ryan and his family.”

Please make a donation to CBLDF to help the organization continue to pay off Matheson’s legal defense costs and to support their important work raising awareness of the rights facing comics and manga readers. To learn more about Ryan’s case, please visit the CBLDF Case File R. v. Matheson, which includes the original defense documents, and special advisories for travelers crossing borders with comics books.

CBLDF Teams with NCAC and ABFFE in Defense of Alan Moore’s NEONOMICON

CBLDF Teams with NCAC and ABFFE in Defense of Alan Moore’s NEONOMICON

CBLDF has joined forces with the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression to write a letter in defense of Alan Moore’s Neocomicon (Avatar Press), which has recently been challenged in the Greenville, South Carolina, public library system. Objections to Neonomicon were raised by a patron after her teenage daughter checked out the book, which contains adult themes. The book was correctly shelved in the adult section of the library, and the teenager possessed a library card that allowed access to the adult section.

CBLDF joined NCAC and ABFFE in sending the following letter to the Library Board of Trustees at the Greenville County Public Library:

Dear Board Members,

On behalf of the National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund we strongly urge you to keep Alan Moore’s Neonomicon in the Greenville Public Library. This book has reportedly been challenged by a member of the community who claims its “sexually graphic” images make it inappropriate for the library.

Removing this book because of objections to its content is impermissible under the First Amendment. As the Supreme Court said in Board of Education v. Pico, the Constitution does not permit “officially prescribed orthodoxy” which limits what people may read, think, speak, or say. The fact that we are confronted with images and not words does not make a difference—the courts have ruled that images, like words, constitute symbolic expression and are protected by the First Amendment.

Neonomicon is a horror graphic novel which explores themes present in the works of fantasy writer H.P. Lovecraft, delving into complex issues of race, crime and sexuality. Moore and artist Jacen Burrows use the visual nature of the graphic novel medium to more fully examine the subject matter found in Lovecraft’s original work, achieving a commentary both on Lovecraft and on the horror genre itself. The authors deliberately disturbing depictions of sexual violence are included as a critical comment on how such subject matter is handled elsewhere within the genre. The book recently won the Bram Stoker award for “Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel.” Its critical acclaim testifies to its artistic value which is aided, not eclipsed, by its sexual content.

Alan Moore is one of the most influential and acclaimed authors in both the graphic novel category and the larger literary culture. His body of work includes Watchmen, which Time Magazine named one of the 100 best English-language novels published since 1923. His works also include the graphic novels V For Vendetta, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, From Hell, and Lost Girls, all of which have enjoyed tremendous critical acclaim. Neonomicon continues Moore’s explorations in appropriating classic literary characters and themes in the service of post-modern storytelling. It is an essential work by an author who is indisputably a master within his field.

The book was appropriately shelved in the adult section of the library. The fact that it was withdrawn by a minor, whose mother had given written permission for her to borrow materials from the adult section, is no basis for removing the book—an action that infringes the First Amendment rights of adult library patrons. Indeed, the removal of the book during the review process is itself problematic, since any government suppression of material because of objections to its viewpoint or content transgresses constitutional boundaries. As a legal matter, the harm has been done, even if it is later rectified.

The book meets the criteria that form the basis for the library’s collection development policy. Removing it because of sexual content not only fails to consider the indisputable value of the book as a whole, but also ignores the library’s obligation to serve all readers, without regards to individual tastes and sensibilities. If graphic violent and sexual content were excluded from the library because some people object to it, the library would lose ancient and contemporary classics, from Aeschylus’ Oresteia to Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

We strongly urge you to respect the rights of all readers to read and think freely, and to reject the notion that the views of some readers about the value of literature, or its “appropriateness”, maybe imposed on all. By keeping the books on the library shelves you will demonstrate respect for your readers and their choices, for the professionalism of the librarians who serve the reading public, and for the First Amendment and its importance to a pluralistic democratic society.

Please consult NCAC’s resource “Graphic Novels: Suggestions for Librarians” (http://ncac.org/graphicnovels.cfm) or contact us if there is anything we can do to help.


Joan Bertin
Executive Director
National Coalition Against Censorship

Chris Finan
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression

Charles Brownstein
Executive Director
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

You can view a PDF of the letter here.

Please help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work and defense against library challenges such as this by making a donation or becoming a member of the CBLDF!

“In Our Mothers’ House” Restricted Access in Utah School District

“In Our Mothers’ House” Restricted Access in Utah School District

With the President’s recent open approval of same-sex marriage; a federal appeals court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (claiming it unconstitutional); the success of Life with Archie #16, featuring the marriage of a gay character; and Marvel and DC’s inclusion of prominent storylines about gay characters, one may surmise it is easy for everyone to access constitutionally-protected LGBT materials. This is not the case, as students in a school district north of Salt Lake City will have to get parental permission before checking out a book about a lesbian couple raising a family, according to a recent article on the Huffington Post.

The book In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco is at the center of these prohibitive policies due to a complaint by the mother of a student who checked out the book, which features a family led by a lesbian couple and how they use love to give them the strength to overcome intolerance.

From the Huffington Post article by Jennifer Dolner:

Students in a Utah school district will need permission from their parents to read a book about a lesbian couple raising a family following the decision by a special committee to keep it behind library counters instead of on bookshelves.

The book In Our Mothers’ House, by Patricia Polacco, became the subject of controversy in January when the mother of a student who brought the book home complained to the school.

‘The book is still in the library and children can still have access to the book as long as they have written permission from their parents,’ said Chris Williams, a spokesman for the Davis School District, which covers an area north of Salt Lake City.

Dolner goes on to relate that the book has been challenged in libraries around the country:

The Davis district is not the first place parents have raised concerns about the book, which was published in 2009. A 2011 report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas shows the book was banned in several schools in that state.

Williams said a school-level committee made up of teachers, administrators and parents decided that access to In Our Mothers’ House should be restricted to students in grades 3 through 6. When that didn’t satisfy the parent, a district committee was petitioned to address the issue.

In late April, the district committee voted 6-1 that the book could stay in the collection, but should be kept behind the counter, instead of on shelves. A letter informing parents of the decision was sent out in May.

Williams said in the article that what’s objectionable to one person is not to another. Thusly, a person’s objection to legal material (that is not defined as offensive or profane by law) has led to a subjective decision to restrict access to said material. These policies, therefore, are based on personal ideologies, not law, and are in violation of a national canon of free expression.

Similar outcries and boycotts have been made by special interest groups, such as One Million Moms, against the comic industry for its depiction of gay characters. In February, One Million Moms lobbied to have an Archie comic removed from shelves and encouraged people to boycott the comic.

From a CBLDF article by Betsy Gomez:

One Million Moms — a division of the American Family Association, a conservative non-profit organization that ‘promotes traditional family values’ — recently made news over their boycott of retailer JC Penney over hiring lesbian TV host Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson. They are in the news again with recent reports that they will be boycotting Toys ‘R’ Us over the display and sale of Life with Archie #16, which features the marriage of openly gay character Kevin Keller.

Despite the group’s efforts, the comic stayed on the shelves and even sold out.

More recently, the group has taken similar actions against Marvel’s Astonishing X-men #51, featuring the marriage of the mutant Northstar to his same-sex partner, and DC’s “outing” of the Green Lantern, according to an ICv2.com article.

From the ICv2 article:

American Family Association ‘project’ One Million Moms has added Marvel and DC to the list of comic publishers that it opposes because of their inclusion of gay characters. The group argues that the companies ‘want to indoctrate [sic] impressionable young minds by placing these gay characters on pedestals in a positive light.’ The group was reacting to the announcement by Marvel that its character Northstar would marry his same sex partner in Astonishing X-Men #51 (see A Gay Wedding for Marvel). DC announced this week that a major, iconic DC character would be revealed as gay next month (see DC Character to Come Out). ‘These companies are heavily influencing our youth by using children’s superheroes to desensitize and brainwash them in thinking that a gay lifestyle choice is normal and desirable,’ the group said.”

Though One Million Moms public objections are constitutionally protected speech, banning comics and books (as in the case of Texas schools banning In Our Mothers’ House) due to moral, political or religious ideologies violate these First Amendment rights.

From the First Amendment Center’s website FAQs concerning speech, schools and books:

School officials cannot pull books off library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas in those books. In Board of Education v. Pico, the Supreme Court ruled that school officials in New York violated the First Amendment by removing several books from junior high school library shelves for being too controversial.

The Court said the First Amendment protects students’ right to receive information and ideas and that the principal place for such information is the library.

However, in Pico, the Supreme Court also said school officials could remove books from library shelves if they were ‘pervasively vulgar.’ The Court noted that its decision did not involve school officials’ control over the curriculum or even the acquisition of books for school libraries.
School districts should develop policies on how to handle challenges to books, and how to ensure that decisions regarding removal of books from the library or the curriculum respect the Constitution and reflect sound educational policy. School officials must also ensure that a book is not removed simply because a concerned parent or special-interest group dislikes its content.”

Visit the non-profit organization First Amendment Center’s website for more information.

LGBT publications, from books to comics, are often challenged, banned or subject to restrictive access policies in libraries. These materials are legal, non-obscene, and protected speech, but they often suffer the consequences of personal, religious, and moral dogmas that infringe on free speech and free access.

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!

Justin Brown is a journalism graduate of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Manga Translator Acquitted of Child Pornography Charges In Swedish Supreme Court Ruling

Supreme Court of Sweden

Swedish news outlet The Local reports that their Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of manga translator Simon Lundström on child pornography charges relating to manga files on his computer. The court’s decision reflects the viewpoint of free speech advocates, including the CBLDF, that sexually explicit manga images are protected artistic expression and not child pornography. The court stated, “The criminalization of possession of the drawings would otherwise exceed what is necessary with regard to the purpose which has led to the restriction on freedom of expression and freedom of information.”

The Local reports:

Lundström, described by Swedish media as a top manga expert, was found guilty by two lower courts of having 39 drawings portraying figures in sexual poses stored on the hard drive of his computer.

In his initial trial, he explained that he had retrieved the pictures in order to stay up to date with the latest developments in the Japanese comic genre.

A district court fined him 25,000 kronor ($3,500) but an appeals court lowered the sum to 5,600 kronor.

CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein welcomed the ruling, stating, “This is an important victory for free expression and for manga. The Swedish Supreme Court has correctly drawn the boundary that governments have a compelling interest in prosecuting criminal behavior, not ideas or expression. Child pornography is an abhorrent crime because real people are harmed, and the creation, distribution and possession of that content are criminal behaviors that contribute to creating victims. Today’s ruling that drawings of an imaginative nature where no victim is created cannot be child pornography is clear-minded and will hopefully provide guidance here in the United States and around the world when similar cases arise in the future. We congratulate Mr. Lundström and his attorney Leif Silbersky for their courageous efforts in reaching this important decision.”


Chip Kidd Is Guest of Honor at CBLDF’s Book Expo Party!

Celebrate free speech at this year’s Book Expo by raising a toast to CHIP KIDD on Tuesday, June 5th in a benefit to support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund!

A VIP cocktail reception starts at 7 PM. Kidd will present a behind-the-scenes look at creating this book, and all attendees will receive an extremely limited copy of BATMAN: DEATH BY DESIGN, with an exclusive signed and numbered bookplate, designed by Mr. Kidd. These bookplated editions are extremely limited, and will be available one time only. Hors d’Oeuvres will be served. This is a ticketed event, with limited admission available for a $50 donation to the CBLDF. Reserve your ticket here.

At 8:30 pm, an open release party and book signing will begin. Copies of BATMAN: DEATH BY DESIGN will be available at the venue! (No ticket needed for this portion of the evening, but a suggested donation at the door is appreciated)

The event happens at SMITHFIELD, 215 West 28th Street New York, NY 10001.


Writer: Chip Kidd, Artist: Dave Taylor

In this new, original graphic novel from superstar writer/designer Chip Kidd and artist Dave Taylor, Gotham City is undergoing one of the most expansive construction booms in its history. The most prestigious architects from across the globe have buildings in various phases of completion all over town. As chairman of the Gotham Landmarks Commission, Bruce Wayne has been a key part of this boom, which signals a golden age of architectural ingenuity for the city. And then, the explosions begin.

All manner of design-related malfunctions – faulty crane calculations, sturdy materials suddenly collapsing, software glitches, walkways giving way and more – cause casualties across the city. This bizarre string of seemingly random catastrophes threatens to bring down the whole construction industry. Fingers are pointed as Batman must somehow solve the problem and find whoever is behind it all.

This event will take place at 7 pm, June 5th, at SMITHFIELD, 215 West 28th Street New York, NY 10001

Tickets for the 7 PM Cocktail Hour Available at http://cbldf.myshopify.com/products/batman-death-by-design-release-party-and-presentation

Join the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund as a Website Contributor!

Join the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund as a Website Contributor!

Are you a journalism student looking for blogging experience? Or a fan of comics and manga with great writing skills and something to say about Free Speech? Are you an educator or librarian who’s a dedicated supporter of the First Amendment? CBLDF would like to include your voice on our website!

CBLDF is looking for contributors to add to our roster of bloggers. 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.

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.

CBLDF: Protect Yourself at International Borders

CBLDF: Protect Yourself at International Borders

by Betsy Gomez

The Toronto Comic Arts Festival takes place this weekend, and CBLDF wants to make comics fans and creators crossing the border into Canada aware of their rights. Last year, several creators were subject to intrusive search on their way to TCAF, and creators Tom Neely and Dylan Williams had books seized by Canada Customs. In 2010, comics fan Ryan Matheson was arrested when he crossed the Canadian border with what Canada Customs thought were objectionable comic books on his laptop. You need to know your rights when crossing international borders with comic books.

In an interview with CBLDF, Neely and Williams described the search that led to the seizure before last year’s TCAF:

Neely: They asked us to stand by the wall of the building and asked for the keys to our car. They opened up our suitcases and pulled out a random sampling of about 5 comic books we had in our bags. Those included Blaise Larmee’s Young Lions and the Black Eye anthology published by Rotland Press, of which I’m a contributor. The security guy asked us what the books were. We described them as “art comics,” and he said he was going to take them inside for review. While we waited, two other security guards came out, opened the car and proceeded to pull out everything in the entire vehicle, pulled out a copy every book, and then went back inside.

Williams: The customs people pulled us over because we were importing merchandise. One agent went through our bags and pulled out a sample of books. He then came back out with Black Eye and Young Lions and asked us about them. Then two more agents came out and searched every bag in our car. They damaged some books. They were all really nice however, especially the first agent who talked with us about the content of the book.

Neely and Williams’ experience with Canada Customs agents doesn’t align with the experience faced by Matheson:

“I believe my treatment throughout the entire ordeal was unfair and unjust. I was abused by the police. The police station jail cell was kept unreasonably cold, and I was given a freezing cold slab of concrete as a bed. I asked for blankets or a pillow but was denied. I asked for food but was denied even after asking at least five times. I politely asked an officer at the police station if I could speak to the U.S. embassy, but she replied, “Are you serious? I don’t think we have that here,” and walked away. I was never able to talk to the embassy, and even when my brother arrived for my bail, he too was denied from seeing me at all. Police officers who transported me would slam metal doors on my head and laugh at me, saying “This one’s easy!” And finally, after being transported to the long-term detention center, guards would torment me with phrases like, “You know, if you get raped in here it doesn’t count!”  I was jailed for five days before bail, longer than most people. These are the horrible things I had to go through when I was simply accused of something.”

The good news is that Matheson’s ordeal is now over, and Neely and Williams were never accused of wrongdoing or arrested, even if they didn’t have the confiscated books to sell during TCAF. The bad news is that this kind of persecution can happen again.

CBLDF is pleased to offer important resources that you should read before you cross a foreign border. These tools aren’t designed to take the place of your lawyer. Nothing in them is intended as legal advice. But they are important overviews of the concerns travelers now face when crossing borders with comic art in printed form and on digital devices. These resources are must-reads for anyone crossing international borders with comic books.

Legal Hazards of Crossing International Borders With Comic Art — Prepared by Davis Wright Tremaine, this general advisory addresses issues concerning entering the United States with expressive materials, provides an overview of the phenomenon of border searches of expressive materials, describes the basic legal framework governing such searches, and offers some general suggestions for international travelers planning to transport expressive materials.

Pornographic Anime and Manga Under Canadian Law — Prepared by Edelson, Clifford, and D’Angelo, in light of the issues faced in R. v. Matheson, this memo addresses the disposition of Canadian law towards anime and manga, outlines the powers of Canada Border Services Agency, and provides a detailed discussion of the definition of child pornography under Canadian law, alongside the related sentencing guidelines and defenses for that offense.

Electronic Devices Privacy Handbook: A Guide To Your Rights — Prepared and hosted by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, this handbook is focused on privacy issues concerning travelers crossing the Canadian border with electronic devices. This tool addresses your rights at the Canadian border, including a discussion of the Customs Act, an overview of CBSA policies, best practices when crossing the Canadian border, and information on what to do if you’ve been searched.

Defending Privacy At The U.S. Border — Prepared and hosted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, this resource provides an overview of privacy issues at the U.S. border, and detailed tips on how to protect your privacy and data, and what to do when interacting with border agents.

CBLDF Advisory: Crossing International Borders — Compiled by CBLDF in conjunction with our initial announcement about the Canada Customs Case and an increasing number of searches and seizures at international borders, this document discusses US Customs policies, the lack of legal protections during border searches, and suggestions for avoiding border searches.

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MIKE GOLD: Important Advice For Comics Artists

Hardly a day goes by without my asking myself “How did all this crappy art get published?”

Now, before all you upstarts get bent out of shape, please appreciate the fact that I’ve been asking this question since about the time Freedom 7 was launched. (Note to self: After gawking at Brian Bolland’s Blog, please don’t look at anybody’s comics art for at least three hours. You’re not giving them a chance.) The difference is, there are a hell of a lot more comic books being published these days. Whereas I think the comics medium beats out Sturgeon’s Law, there’s a hell of a lot of crappy art out there, and much of it is below what I consider to be professional standards.

Over my career I’ve spent a great deal of time evaluating newbie portfolios, and while I feel doing this at the larger, crowded conventions generally gives the young wannabe short shrift, like most geriatric editors I’ve developed a mental go-to list of comments that, if followed, will likely give direction to the newcomer. Since I’ve grown anti-social of late, I’ll share some of these points with you.

Stare at something other than the comics you grew up with. And don’t spend all that much time staring at comic books published before your birth – yeah, study the classics like Toth, Kubert, Kirby, Kane, Maneely, Wood, Adams, Barks and Toth, but learn from the great newspaper strip creators like Milton Caniff, Frank Robbins, Floyd Gottfriedson, Alex Raymond, and Frank Godwin. Spend some time gawking at the great illustrators like J.C. Leyendecker, Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell, Howard Pyle, and NC Wyeth. Go to a few art museums. There is no more enjoyable way to pay your dues.

Get a large jar and label it “Photoshop Copy Machine.” Every time you use Photoshop or any other graphics program to copy your art so that you can use it later in lieu of drawing something new, put $20.00 in the jar. When you fill it up, donate the money to The Hero Alliance or CBLDF. The eye tires of the same old stuff, particularly when you repeat the same image within a few pages. Sometimes there is a solid storytelling reason to rerun your work within the same story, but like all dramatic effects these are few and far between and should only be used sparingly.

Get a smaller jar and label it “Son Of Photoshop Copy Machine.” Every time you use Photoshop or any other graphics program to copy somebody else’s art, put $10,000 in the jar. Then find some other fulfilling way to make a living. I suggest procuring a domino mask, a striped shirt, and a gun.

There’s an old adage that proclaims “color will save it.” More often than not, this statement is attributed to the late DC Comics production whiz Sol Harrison, who got his start as an engraver on Superman #1 and in his spare time did watercolors. Unfortunately, Sol was wrong. Color will not save bad art. Not even the most heavy-handed computer color. Bad art is bad art. Or, to be less subtle, shit stinks.

Go buy a copy of [[[Gray’s Anatomy]]]. Not the teevee show, silly, the book written and drawn by Henry Gray first published 154 years ago. Whereas the book has been updated frequently, the human body has not. I am not concerned with your religious predilection, but no matter which hoary thunderer or cosmic muffin you might worship, if you intend to draw the human figure for a living this is your new bible. I cannot stress this more highly.

Study storytelling. As the artist, you carry the burden of telling the story. You are not an illustrator illuminating somebody else’s story: you’re the person putting it across the plate. Your friend over there should be able to get a good sense of the story by looking at your unlettered original art. Go get Will Eisner’s Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative, and Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist and Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. Take these three books, add the aforementioned Gray’s Anatomy, and don’t pick up the pencil or the Wacom tablet until you have studied and thought about each and every word in these four books.

Do not stop drawing. Question your alleged need to watch television, play video games, associate with people, eat, and bathe. Each of these activities takes valuable time away from your perfecting your craft. Trust me; once you get an assignment with a deadline, you won’t have time to watch television, play video games, associate with people, eat, or bathe.

Don’t give up. A newbie comic book artist who had just blown a couple deadlines once told me “If I can’t do this, I might as well flip burgers.” Well, today this guy is not flipping burgers. He became a comic book writer.

Drawing comics is no different than any other vocation: you’ve got to learn your stuff. Don’t look at the worst people being published and say “I can do better than that.” We’ve got enough crap. Aim high and don’t jump into the water until you know you can swim to the other side.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil