Rio Rancho mom “incredibly disturbed” by finding “Palomar” in school library

Student finds pornographic book at Rio Rancho High   New Mexico News   KOAT Home.png
Sadly I can’t embed the local news scare quotes story here but the transcript is almost as good. A mother in Rio Rancho, NM found her son had checked out Gilbert Hernandez’ PALOMAR from the school library, and then things got dangerous!


She said her son checked out the book “Palomar” from the Rio Rancho High School library Wednesday.

The 14-year-old thought it might be a Magna, or Japanese-style comic book. There are cartoon-like characters, but Lopez said she found 30 disturbing images in the book.

“I started to find child pornography pictures and child abuse pictures and I was like, ‘No. That’s not going to happen in my house,’” she said.

Online, “Palomar” is described as a graphic novel written by Gilbert Hernandez.


Even more incredibly the book—which reprints Hernandez’s acclaimed stories set in a small Mexican town from the first 10 issues or so of Love and Rockets—had been in the library since 2006! And no one noticed! The school library is investigating to find out HOW THIS HAPPENED?

How did it happen? Palomar is an acclaimed book by an acclaimed author, probably.

That said, the Palomar tales are definitely full of pee-pees, woo-woos and lots and lots of bazingas. It is a haunting, adult story of love, sex, betrayal, memory and loss. No one in comics draws guys with their dinguses hanging out quite the way Beto does. That said, as wonderful as this material is, school libraries are under a lot of pressure over standards, and Palomar is definitely rather adventurous material.

I would link to some images by my ad network won’t allow it. UPDATE: Jen Vaughan has a dingus parade! Thanks Jen!

Anyway, this seems like a tempest in a teapot with some deliberately misleading scary inaccurate quotes. Will it blow over as virtually every similar scandal—PARENT led protests, that is, not government led ones like the removal of Persepolis from Chicago schools—in recent years has? We’ll see.

duckfeet.jpg

UPDATED 2: ON a more serious note, the CBLDF is responding to this with help and information:

Needless to say, Palomar is not actually a collection of child porn — Publishers Weekly called it “a superb introduction to the work of an extraordinary, eccentric and very literary cartoonist” and it often draws comparisons to the magic realism of novelists such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The book collects Hernandez’s “Heartbreak Soup” stories which originally appeared in the Love and Rockets series, a collaboration with his brothers Jaime and Mario. Gilbert Hernandez’s stories focus on the interconnected lives of characters from one family in the fictional South American town of Palomar.

Although filtered by KOAT’s biased reporting Rio Rancho Public Schools officials’ characterization of the book as “clearly inappropriate” is worrisome. We certainly hope that the said officials are up to speed on their district’s policy on Request for Reconsideration of Library Materials, which says in part:


Review of questioned (“challenged”) materials will be treated objectively, unemotionally, and as a routine matter. Criticisms of print and non-print materials must be submitted in writing on a Request for Reconsideration of Library Materials form obtained from the librarian at the library/media center where the material is housed and submitted to the Superintendent of schools. The Request must be signed and include specific information as to author, title, publisher, and definite citation of objection.

Thanks, Obamacomics!

Health Care Reform graphic novelA graphic novel has become Exhibit A in the latest Obamacare controversy.

[Read more…]

Today’s Inside Edition to report on Comic-Con harassment

Oh my! I’ve been waiting for the story of cosplay harassment at cons to get more TMZed. According to the above teaser, tonights’ Inside Edition, which is syndicated nationally, is going to do a story on “the dark side of Comic-Con” which involves inappropriate touching and the usual harassment problems.

I doubt this will set off any witch hunt because we all know that touching people without their consent is wrong, but it is writing a new narrative about conventions.

Inside Edition   America s Newsmagazine  Breaking News  Latest Stories  Videos   Photos.jpeg

From what I heard, there were fewer incidents at this year’s NYCC. Certainly the Cosplay is Not Consent posters by Amy Reeder Hadley were EVERY WHERE, and presented a much better message than last year’s Arizona Iced Tea promotions about women with big cans. Unfortunately there were a few incidents, and any is too many. But progress is being made.

Anyway, set your DVRS—the show airs at night in most areas, although it already aired here in NYC. And then watch a story about a dentist with bad Yelp reviews.

To do tonight, San Diego: Scott McCloud and Larry Marder on Banned Books Week

boc_thumb.jpg

It’s Banned Books Week, a n annual event mostly held in libraries which spotlights attempts to remove books. This year’s theme is graphic novels, as discussed in this article from PW by Rich Shivener. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is sponsoring several events this week and has much more information and a list of banned or challenged comics here. The idea for GNs as a focus started when last year it was announced that the top ten challenged books nationwide includes Bone by Jeff Smith.

Tonight’s big event is a discussion by Scott McCloud and Larry Marder, co-sponsored by the CBLDF, Comic-Con International and the San Diego Central Library. Needless to say, if you’re in the area, it’s worth a listen.

SDCC ’14: Defending the “Superfan” to the NY Times

E_sig_logo.gif
As just reported, the NY Times delivered a pretty strong diss to the economics of Comic-Con, and I’m sure con vets and observers will be responding very soon, as Marvel’s CB Cebulski already did:

In the meantime, the Bonfire Agency’s founding partner Steve Rotterdam</strong> penned a response for the Beat. The Bonfire Agency specializes in crafting ad campaigns to the geek demo, so they have some thoughts on branding strategies in general:

Sadly, the NYTimes article reflects the writers’ misunderstanding of the relationship the brands cited have with pop culture consumers, in general, and SDCC attendees, in particular.  Most of the brands cited in the article are, in fact, returnees and many have extended their sponsorships to other pop culture “superfan” conventions throughout North America. More importantly, these brands have come to know that overt, hard-sell, commerce-before-content posturing and tactics at such events not only do not work with attendees, but have a tendency to backfire – particularly in the social realm. So what is dismissed by the writers as laid-back soft sell is, in fact, the best strategy for success when sailing through fan-infested waters.  

Be it at the San Diego Comic-Con or at a local comic shop, brand support that smartly celebrates the passions of the geek demographic pays off in increased brand awareness, loyalty and word of mouth.  Because when brands like Hyundai, Dr Pepper, Pizza Hut, Schick, MAC Cosmetics and Uber help superfans better connect to what it is they care about, they better position themselves with these discriminating, socially influential consumers for when the time comes to buy.

One thing the writers did get right. Compared to attendees of other conventions and trade shows held in San Diego, attendees at Comic-Con don’t spend as much to wine and dine themselves at area restaurants. First of all, the majority of them don’t arrive with expense accounts.  More importantly, they prefer to direct their indulgences and dollars to the dealers and vendors on the exhibit floor.

Banned Books Week spotlights Comics this year

Most-Dangerous-Man-Image-2-800

Every year the Banned Books Week National Committee announces a theme, and for 2014 its comics and graphic novels. The announcement comes in the wake of Bone being named as one of the top ten most banned books of 2013, the growing number of challenges to Fun Home and general “They hate us!”-ness usually aimed at libraries. Captain Underpants, the most banned book, is even considered a graphic novel for the purposes of the announcement.

“This year we spotlight graphic novels because, despite their serious literary merit and popularity as a genre, they are often subject to censorship,” Judith Platt, the chairwoman of the Banned Books Week National Committee, said in a statement.

“It’s shocking that books are still banned and challenged. Comics are especially vulnerable to those challenges,” Charles Brownstein said in his own statement. “With this year’s Banned Books Week focus, we welcome the opportunity to engage the public in a vital dialogue about intellectual freedom and the powerful role comics serve.”

“But where are the conservative mangas and graphic novels?”

tumblr_n3401sB10d1tsoddeo1_1280A graphic novel is dropping this week called The Forgotten Man Graphic Edition: A New History of the Great Depression . It’s a 320 page history of The Great Depression, adapted from Amity Shlaes book, drawn by Paul Rivoche. Shlaes is a conservative historian and pundit, and to promote the book she has a piece in the National Review called A Cartoon Manifesto which is a kind of “gosh wow graphic novels can communicate” piece with the angle that the left has been taking advantage of this medium, the right better catch up.

Given my own liberal views (and lack of knowledge of the subject), I’m probably not the best person to judge whether the book’s view that The New Deal extended the economic hardships of the Depression, and Roosevelt and pals were to blame for a variety of ills is the truth. Yes, it’s Hayek vs Keynes over and over again. That said, for someone who writes history books, Shlaes’ research into comics was kinda…weird. Like the very word “mangas.” I guess this was a crash course and not an in-depth exploration.

Counterintuitive as it may sound, these graphic novels not only feature nonfiction but also lend themselves enviably to difficult nonfiction topics. Take Persepolis, a mauve-and-grey depiction of a girl’s life in the Iranian Revolution. Artist Marjane Satrapi depicts the habits of the Shah’s SAVAK officers and their terrifying successors, Khomeini’s PERFUMED police, better than any print history of Iran and certainly better than, say, the film Argo. Maus, another graphic novel, takes on a yet touchier subject, the Holocaust, and somehow manages to convey what happened without exploiting or reducing the record. What’s more, these long cartoon books have much the same capacity as films to entice the reader to delve deeper. As Bill Bennett, one who gets the medium, noted recently: “After reading the comic of The Iliad, then I read the children’s edition of The Iliad, and then I read The Iliad.”

Shlaes does have the know-how to link to an article I wrote on comics and libraries for PW, and she also tips us off to an illustration version of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, which will set every eco-comix fan’s heart a flutter.

Things REALLY get fun in the comments, where you can see good the old “comics are dumb” attitude in full flower! Ah how I missed you. There’s this:

One thing I learned about the Left: they prefer it when the kids don’t know how to read too well. They prefer kids who can be led around the parking lot singing Civil Rights songs and hymns to The Lorax. That, to them, is more “educational” than anything a kid might learn in a (shudder) book.

and THIS:

I am lower middle class and I have lived in some of the poorest regions in America (including Alabama, West Virginia, and Kentucky). I have been homeless. I have lived in homeless shelters. And I worked my TAIL off to get my kids an education.
It’s not elitist to point out that reading Marvel comics is something you should do on your own time, not something that should be treated as educational.
We teach literature because the great books have depths that cannot be accessed unless one learns a particular skill set first. Learning this skill set is part of being educated. Today’s kids are not getting that education – and that limits them.

and on and on…

Whatever its politics, Rivoche’s work on this book is AMAZING. All this ax-grinding and arguing could make for a very very dull book, but he goes out of his way to make it visually compelling. There’s a tumblr devoted to the book and you can see some of the pages. I can’t judge this book as history, but as a comic it’s stunning!

tumblr_n3hj1eLPGU1tsoddeo2_1280

When a con is…crap

superfan comicon

A few days back I ran a rundown of one particularly crowded weekend for comic cons, among them one called SuperFan ComicCon in Toronto, which I had never heard of, and which had…well, a somewhat dodgy website, something I was too polite to mention. It turns out the show itself did not please attendees or vendors. Organizers predicted 15,000 attendees, and about 2000 showed up, proof that even in this day and age you can still throw a pretty crappy comic-con if you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t promote it and have a subpar guest list.

I don’t know anything about the show itself or the organizers, but I did note that the venue, the Exhibition Place Better Living Centre in Toronto is not the most hospitable place for a show. I attended a show back in the day there, the Paradise Comic-Con which was a great show in many ways, but not overly attended. The Exhibition Center is (or was then and I assume still is) kind of isolated with little in the way of amenities. I’m sure there were other problems.

Anyway, Bleeding Cool has a round-up of complaints from Facebook that were deleted, something the organizers admit was a social media blunder. You can still see some apologies and anger on their page as this from the organizers:

Thank you to all who have patiently been waiting for your questions and concerns to be answered. We at SuperFan ComicCon wish to welcome all feedback from our online community, fans, and vendors whether it be negative, positive, or somewhere in between. We want to thank you for being a part of our first comic convention show and for your patience. The show had a few hiccups which you may have experienced, but we’re working to address these issues for future events.

We do want to acknowledge that the event was still a success. We would like to thank all our fans and vendors who enjoyed their time at the show and sent their support. We were all brought together by our passion for comic conventions and everything they include and we had hoped for this event to bring everyone together to celebrate those passions. Even we at SuperFan ComicCon are people who have a love for all things comics. Our goal was to bring a community together.

We understand that some aspects of the show didn’t go as planned or turned out as we had hoped. We thank those fans and vendors who have shared their experience (both negative and positive) as we will take this feedback as lessons learned to be applied to future shows. It is our intent to address any and every issue.


Which drew angry responses, especially considering the hype pre-show:

201405280216.jpg
And one typical response from one Herbert Kwan:

lol what do you mean a success. Vendors and artist were packing up and leaving for good by mid Sunday, and by Monday 2pm 1/2 the vendors and artists are totally gone. You guys were even late opening for people who spend extra money to buy VIP passes. This is probably one of the worst show I attended, even compare to other first time cons. With that much unhappy vendors telling others how bad it was, who is going to buy booths and table for next year’s show? You guys were even classy enough to deleted bad review comments. I really really think that all the vendors, exhibitors, and artist deserve their money back after the lies and being mistreated by you guys.


AND there’s much more here

Anyway what have we learned here? As con culture gets bigger and bigger and more lucrative, it’s obvious that more and more sharks and clueless newbs are going to get into the business. Maybe vendors could have done more due diligence, but although obviously big claims were made—it pays to vet people.

But also a reminder to people who are jumping on thee comic-con bandwagon. Vendors and artists need ACCURATE information about shows before they lay out money for booths, let alone travel, accommodation, sandwiches, and so on. It’s why when I hear claims of huge attendance numbers I try to verify ones that sound out of whack. GIVING OUT INFLATED ATTENDANCE NUMBERS IS FRAUD.

Some of this is self-regulating. Word spreads and people soon know who are the con men and who aren’t. There are a couple of other Facebook sites where vendors and guests share experiences at cons, and we’re going to see more of this. And there are may levels of “succcess.” I personally don’t get excited about most of the guests at Wizard World shows, but I know a lot of people do well at them, and the roster is expanding, and no one ever said those shows aren’t very well run.

There is a LOT of competition for boots on the ground and dollars in the pop culture event sphere. I recently wrote a story about comics events in libraries, and there are dozens of these and some of them draw 2000+ people. More and more comics shops are getting into throwing shows, and they have intimate knowledge of the local fanbase. And of course, big corporations are throwing cons too. I guess what I’m saying is if you want to throw a con, know what you are getting into and don’t try any flimflam—this is NOT easy money.

And once again, I’ll point to the CONversation series by Mike Scigliano, which is, I believe the only step-by-step guide to throwing a comic-con available.

She-Hulk v David S Goyer: Dawn of Timeline

SheHulk_COVER_IN_LIVIN_COLOR_by_BroHawk.jpg

In case you missed the Flight 370 of the comics internet, here’s a post to get you totally up to speed on the latest developments!

May 21st 12:10 pm Mary Sue contributor Alan Kistler posts a transcript of a podcast from the night before called Scriptnotes, a screenwriting podcast run by John August. On this episode, called The Summer Superhero Spectacular, August and Craig Mazin talk with Legend of Conan screenwriter Andrea Berloff, Captain America the Winter Soldier scribes Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and David S. Goyer, probably the single most important guy in the entire DC/Warner Bros film universe, author of the stories of Blade I, Blade II, Blade III, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (League), executive producer of the upcoming Constantine tv show, and a man with a hand in just about every single DC related thing that goes on at Warner Bros.

Kistler transcribed the past of the podcast where Mazin called She Hulk “She slut” and Goyer chimed in with the following:

Goyer: I have a theory about She-Hulk. Which was created by a man, right? And at the time in particular I think 95% of comic book readers were men and certainly almost all of the comic book writers were men. So the Hulk was this classic male power fantasy. It’s like, most of the people reading comic books were these people like me who were just these little kids getting the s**t kicked out of them every day… And so then they created She-Hulk, right? Who was still smart… I think She-Hulk is the chick that you could f**k if you were Hulk, you know what I’m saying? … She-Hulk was the extension of the male power fantasy. So it’s like if I’m going to be this geek who becomes the Hulk then let’s create a giant green porn star that only the Hulk could f**k.


Proving that he his misunderstanding green characters also extends to DC characters, Goyer then took a few swipes at Martian Manhunter, a character he will be writing in the upcoming Justice League movie, by most accounts, asking “How many people in the audience have heard of Martian Manhunter?” and after some people responded in the affirmative saying “How many people that raised their hands have ever been laid?”

Ouchie.

She-Hulk_Vol_2_23.jpg

May 21st 12:11 pm: All hell breaks loose on the internet as Twitter, show biz sites, comics sites and every site except the one you are reading cry out in unison to mock the man who will write the Justice League Movie and to, of all things, defend She-Hulk. As many pointed out, Goyer has grossly misrepresented She-Hulk — she’s Bruce Banner’s COUSIN not his fuck buddy! And she does have kind of a dumb origin: she was created by Stan Lee and John Buscema to copyright the idea of a “female Hulk” since Marvel feared The Incredible Hulk tv show would spin off into a female version, the way the Six Million Dollar Man had with The Bionic Woman. (these are primitive times we’re talking about.) But as hundred of fans pointed out, She-Hulk, in her day job as attorney Jessica Walter, had actually become one of the most well rounded female superheroines on the stands, with respected runs by Dan Slott and now Charles Soule; heck, even the John Byrne run had its moments.

She-Hulk (3).jpg

May 21st 4:15 pm: : The Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg hammers the above home with a fantastic post called She-Hulk is a feminist hero, not a male fantasy where she points out that She-Hulk, almost alone among superheroines, is a FEMALE power figure who is so strong she’s freed from all fear and able to enjoy her own sexuality with an agency rarely seen in any female characters:

She-Hulk was sexy, too, of course. But what Goyer seems to miss is that in her earliest and best story lines, She-Hulk’s sexuality is her own. She is not some brain-dead courtesan, but a swashbuckling heart-breaker. Her first love interest is a neighboring medical student, a younger hunk. In Slott’s “Single Green Female” stories, Shulkie brings home a male super-model and then has to figure out how to make sure her Adonis does not get too attached.

The best She-Hulk sex and romance stories succeed because they make an important distinction. She-Hulk is not a male fantasy of how sexual liberation works, where women focus more on making men happy than on their own pleasure. Rather, she is an adventuress with a clear sense of her own gratification and joy.

AND NOW SURPRISE FLASHBACK! In a post on Four Color Princesses by Dee Emm Elms called “People are gonna stare no matter how I dress!” Elms makes a pretty powerful argument that despite her often scanty clothing and art by Greg Horn and Greg Land and the VAST amount of She-Hulk fetish art out there, she is still an icon who stands in for the empowerment of women, representing self-reliance and the power to fight back, a fantasy that a lot of women, particularly battered woman, may find very inspiring. Yes, THAT Shulkie.

she-hulk.jpg

Oh yeah, while I was image surfing I found all kinds of amazing images of She Hulk. And I found this one of a little kid whose parents decided to dress their young daughter as She-Hulk. Maybe a little odd…but adorable.

BACK TO THE TIMELINE:

May 21st, 5:45 pm: The showbiz internet begins to question why Goyer is even writing Wonder Woman for the Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (League) movie, whose unfortunate title was just announced earlier in the day. Ross Lincoln at The Escapist ties his Martian Manhunter comments—which certainly aren’t very flattering to the superhero world—to Warner Bros’ failure in that department:

It’s been said before, but Goyer almost appears to be ashamed that he’s even associated with comic book films. So it is that the best he can come up with, when asked about one of DC’s most interesting properties, is to delete any trace of the his origin story, misunderstand core aspects of his character, and saddle him with a genericized sobriquet so hackish it almost belongs in a Matrix sequel and plot points that reflect the worst cliches of the last 20 years. I can’t argue that Martian Manhunter isn’t as well known as Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman. But using obscurity as an excuse to ignore him shows a painful lack of imagination. Marvel has made billions producing movies about ancient Norse gods and talking raccoons. Meanwhile, DC’s attempt to copy Marvel is being run by someone who thinks the lone survivor of an ancient Martian civilization is too nerdy for audiences to accept. Make of that what you will.

May 21st, 11:11 pm: Rosenberg’s colleague, Michael Cavna tracks down She Hulk co-creator Stan Lee and asks what he thinks of the controversy. Still sharp Stan responds “Never for an instant did I want her as a love interest for Hulk. Only a nut would even think of that.”

May 21, 11:12 pm: “Stan Lee calls David S Guyer a Nut” headlines begin to fan out over the internet.

May 22, early morning: Current She Hulk scribe (and attorney) Charles Soule begins to tweet about the controversy:

She-Hulk Construction Worker.jpg

May 22nd, late afternoon: The original cause of the kerfuffle, podcaster.screenwriter John August Craig Mazin, finally speaks up and says when he called the She-Hulk a She-slut, he was descrying her sexist portrayal, not slut-shaming her:

First off, my point wasn’t that I think She-Hulk is a slut. I don’t. I don’t think anyone is a slut. I don’t think there’s anything shameful about female sexuality or the female body.

What I don’t like is the practice of pushing exaggerated images of female bodies to boys because it sells comic books or video games. Women in comics and video games aren’t accidentally drawn over and over and over again with outsized breasts, long legs and narrow waists. It’s marketing. Having a character remark recursively on that marketing doesn’t negate the marketing, of course. It’s a clever way to defuse criticism with grownups while selling issues to hormone-addled boys. John and I have talked about this issue on the podcast before as it relates to video games (specifically in support of the work done by Anita Sarkeesian).

Bottom line: I wasn’t saying that I think she’s a slut. I was saying I think the people who created her were at one time pushing a visual image of Hulk as Slut in order to make money. And I don’t like that. My comment was entirely about the illustration of a fictional character. It was not a reflection of my opinion of the mind or actions of the character.


While the backpedaling here may have carried Mazin all the way to the Arctic Circle, he’s still wrong. And it’s amazing to me that so many guys are getting it wrong. WOMEN LIKE SHE-HULK! Women enjoy a power fantasy! Women would like to be big and strong and not have to give a fuck about anything! Just like guys!

May 23rd, 10:00 am: Weighing in on this who kerfuffle, The Beat must smh yet again at how many people in positions of authority don’t seem to get the first thing about What Women Want In A Superheroine. Not every female character must be a role model. Some are just well-rounded characters who are…fun. FUN, I SAY!!!

946181.jpg

It wasn’t until I started writing this piece that I made a mental comparison of She Hulk and Power Girl. As a kid I always liked She Hulk; but Power Girl’s giant tits repelled me. Why? Both are fun, sexy characters who are superstrong. Neither is shy about showing off their physiques. And yet, aside from the excellent Amanda Conner version, Power Girl is usually portrayed as the passive object of the male gaze. As fetishized as She-Hulk is, if you look at the images on this blog post, she is NEVER passive. She is active, in control, strong, powerful…someone you would like to be for kicks, even if it had its downside, just like it does for Spider-Man, Batman, Superman and every successful superhero. She knows who she is and isn’t ashamed of it.

I dunno, maybe Marvel has it wrong developing Black Widow for films. While She-Hulk might be a tough sell because she’s…a female Hulk, she’s probably Marvel’s freshest, funniest female character. And there’s no one like her anywhere in film or TV.

I listened to a bit of the original podcast, and it’s clear that Goyer and the rest are relaxed and goofing around. Everyone says dumb shit from time to time, but the KIND of dumb shit Goyer used unfortunately fits in with a narrative that isn’t very hopeful for a) a female superhero movie ever being successful in the studio system and b) a DC movie that doesn’t star Batman or Superman ever being successful. I don’t know Goyer or anything about him, but I can guess one thing: This morning, he’s sorry he ever said those things aloud on that podcast.
download (1).jpeg

Bone gives Shades of Grey a run as one of the 10 Most Banned Books of 2013

201404141732.jpg
If you were to guess what the 10 most banned or challenged books in the US in 2013 were, you might guess 50 Shades of Grey for its class-consciousness tinged bondage romance; or John Green’s Looking for Alaska with its classic themes of coming of age and the required drugs and sexuality. And yes both those books are on the list, released today by the American LIbrary Association. But also on the list? Jeff Smith’s Bone series, which we’re told by the CBLDF, has been cited for “Political viewpoint, racism, violence.”

Racism? Is this that anti-Rat Creature party we’ve been hearing about? Or the Rockjaw Defense League?

While Bone is a bit of a shock to be on the list, the first one is also odd because it’s so clearly a kids book: Captain Underpants. I mean sure kids shouldn’t be exposed to underpants, unless they are being told to put on a clean pair because it’s Tuesday already, but…honestly don’t the censors of America have better things to do?

Here’s the complete Top Ten:

1) Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey (Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence.)
2) The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison (Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence.)
3) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie (Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.)
4) Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James (Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.)
5) The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group.)
6) A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone (Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit.)
7) Looking for Alaska, by John Green (Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.)
8) The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky (Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.)
9) Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya (Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit.
10) Bone (series), by Jeff Smith (Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence.)

According to the CBLDF,

This is Bone’s first appearance on ALA’s annual list of challenged books, but it isn’t the first time it’s run affoul of censors. In 2012, it was banned in Texas at Crestview Elementary and moved to the junior high library because it was deemed unsuited to the age group. In April of 2010, a Minnesota parentpetitioned for the series’ removal from her son’s school library, when she discovered images she believed to be promoting drinking and smoking. A letter from Smith decrying the ban attempt was read aloud at the committee’s hearing, and the challenge was ultimately rejected by a 10-1 vote, to the praise of Smith and CBLDF.

The day Archie’s publisher put the heat on J. Edgar Hoover over dirty comic books

hoover-goldwater.jpg
J. Edgar Hoover is one of the great characters of American history. The head of the FBI for 48 years, he was a feared and fearsome warden of information who ran the Bureau as his own elite squad of G-men. He was known to amass files on countless government and entertainment figures, much of the information obtained in a less than constitutional manner. (Gee, glad that doesn’t happen any more, right?)

He was also a fierce guardian of the public morals. And via the Freedom of Information Act, here’s a funny little tidbit of comic book history, passed along by FOIA expert Michael Ravnitzky. You can read the entire exchange below, but basically there was an FBI file on the Comics Magazine Association of America, 1960, the self-censoring body instituted by the comics industry after the Kefauver hearings. It started with a public memo written on January 1, 1960 in which Hoover warned of the hideous scourge of pornography that was hurting the children:

I am speaking of the unquestionably base individuals who spread obscene literature across our land through the means of films, decks of playing cards, photographs, “comic” books, salacious magazines, paperbacked books and other pornographic products. These forms of obscenity indeed threaten the morality of our Nation and its richest treasure-our young people.

While the danger of dirty playing cards remains present to this day, it was the mention of comic books which alarmed John L. Goldwater, then president of the CMAA as well as the founder of Archie Comics (and father of current co-publisher Jon Goldwater, who makes occasional appearances here at The Beat.) Goldwater wrote to Hoover to defend the comics industry:

Our attention has been called to your statement linking comic books with pornography, which has been reprinted in newspapers throughout the country during the past month. We respectfully but most strenuously, wish to protest just unjustifiable characterization for there is absolutely no existing basis for it. Its publication, over name [sic] someone your stature and public esteem, constitutes a serious liability to an industry which has demonstrated its responsibility to a remarkable degree on practically a unanimous basis more than five years. The comic books sold on the newsstands today are not, in any sense, pornographic or obscene; they are, on the contrary, decent and in good taste. While it is possible that your statement was not intended to include the comic books sold on newsstands; nevertheless, the average reader could assume that it did, for the statement did not distinguish the legitimate product our industry the type of material produced in cartoon form to be sold illicitly as pornography.

Hoover’s office wrote back in an almost contrite way: it wasn’t those decent comics that were being condemned, but the nasty ones:

With regard to my reference to “‘comic’ books” in my statement to all law enforcement officials in the January, 1960, issue of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, I believe that you as a member of the legitimate comics industry should be well aware of vile type of lewd and obscene literature to which I was referring. Undoubtedly, you are familiar with the many “under-the-counter” comic books which illicitly trade on established comic characters and depict them in various vulgar and obscene activities. The unscrupulous individuals who profit from this degrading activity should be ferreted out and made to pay for the tremendous harm which results particularly among our young people.
[snip]

In the sentence to which you take exception, quotation marks were used round the word “comic” to specifically convey the idea that legitimate books were not being criticized.

 

And then adds a bit of a zinger:

You might like to know that although 1 have received a number of comments and letters concerning my statement, yours has been the only one misinterpreting it.

OH SNAP. Unsurprisingly, before this memo was sent out, thethe bureau ran a check on Goldwater, but he came up clean.

What were the offending comics? A P.S. to the FBI file reads:

Attached in an obscene envelope are samples of the comic books. These are from the Laboratory’s reference file and should be returned so that they may be placed back in the file. The obscenity of this type material, currently referred to as hard-core pornography, has been thoroughly established by court action in the past.

The FBI had the largest collection of porno known to the world; however, it was destroyed in the ’70s, so we’ll never know just what these dirty comics were, although I’m sure comics scholars can guess.

A sad addendum to the matter comes in the last paragraphs of Goldwater’s letter:

Perhaps you will be interested to know that almost two-thirds of the publishers of comics magazines in business at the time the code was adopted have gone out of the field. There were some thirty publishers actively engaged in producing comic books in the Fall of 1954. Today, there are only eleven! A concomitant reduction in the percentage of’ distributors and printers of comics has also resulted. Nevertheless, those remaining in the industry have steadfastly adhered to the program, supporting it financially, submitting their material for advance review, making the revisions required, and facing up to the competition of other communications media which do not have anything like the restrictions to which Code-Approved comics are subjected.

While the destruction of the US comics business is covered at length in David Hajdu’s The Ten Cent Plague, here in a few sentences is Goldwater’s perhaps wistful capitulation to the realities of his gutted industry. While he may have been a little sad at that point, it didn’t stop him from running the CMAA for 25 years, and helping hold the US comics industry in an immature state for that whole time.

Here’s the whole file:

[gview file=”http://comicsbeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/FBI-ComicsMagazineAssn_1960.pdf”]

Fun Home called ‘Pornographic’ in South Carolina

201307301154.jpg
A South Carolina watchdog group has criticized the College of Charleston (CofC) in Charleston, South Carolina for choosing Alison Bechdel’s award-winning FUN HOME as recommended reading for freshmen. The book was chosen as a book for freshmen to read before orientation as a sort of college “ice breaker” but the Palmetto Family Council has labeled the book “pornographic” and protested its purchase at a publicly funded university. According to an ABC story:

“If this book were a magazine it would be wrapped in brown paper,” said Oran Smith, director of Palmetto Family Council. “We reviewed every book assigned in SC this year. Many were provocative. This one is pornographic. Not a wise choice for 18-year-olds at a taxpayer-supported college.”


FUN HOME is one of the most lauded graphic novels of the last decade; it does contain some male nudity and scenes of lesbian sex, but only a few panels each. This is not the first time it’s been challenged, as in 2006 a Missouri woman tried to have it and BLANKETS removed from a library.

The CofC has stood by its decision; a student’s reaction to the book later in the ABC report reveals what we knew all along: nothing sells like controversy.

“I read the first 20 pages so far. I’m not too deep into it, but so far it’s pretty good,” said Hassam Solano’Morel, an upcoming freshman. “Actually the fact that it was controversial has actually put me on to reading it because I do like reading things like that and I know that some people especially have a really closed mind and they need to read stuff like that to really expand their thought about what is going on in the world and real situations in life.”


You can read more of the Palmetto Family Council’s thoughts on the book here. Perhaps you can participate in the comments.

Fallout on the Apple Saga #12 ban

News of Apple’s decision to ban SAGA #12 from any app-based storefronts spread like wildfire yesterday, prompting outrage and head shakes from those who believe having a single corporation controlling our access to entertainment—no matter how sexy and sleek that corporation—may not be a good idea.

First, some of the oddities of the matter:

As shown in our post, the images in question were undoubtedly adult in nature, depicting what appeared to be man-on-man oral sex. Funnily enough, these same pages had been posted in a preview on Comic Book Resources with nary a warning or complaint.

But even odder, the previous 11 issues of SAGA all contained lots of adult and explicit material, including a giant with a huge scrofulous nutsack bobbing all over the place—so it wasn’t just male genitalia that was the problem.

Issue #4 of SAGA—which I can buy right now in the Apple store—contains The Will’s trip to a pleasure planet where he observes all kinds of sex—gay, straight, and whatever. I’ve blanked the pages in question but clicking on them yields the original art.

saga_04_review9_00009_edit.jpg

saga_04_review9_00010-edit.jpg

saga_04_review9_00011-edit.jpg
Apple has made many boneheaded censorious moves in the past—including a graphic novel adaptation of ULYSSES by James Joyce—and this one seems to be particularly weird and petty. To be fair, it doesn’t seem to be so much homophobic, given the other stuff that went through in SAGA, but more incredibly arbitrary given the stuff that has already gone through.

However it seems to be more an increasing pattern. SEX by Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski—also from Image—has already been banned from the Apple store, and they recently removed a bunch of French titles from the IZNEO app:

Perhaps the folks behind the French comics app Izneo should have gotten a copy. Two weeks ago—on the eve of the long Easter week-end, the site IDBOOX notes—the Izneo folks got an order from Apple to remove the “pornographic” content from their app. With no clue as to what Apple would judge to be pornographic, the Izneo folks immediately took down 2,800 of the 4,000 comics in their app, cautiously removing anything that could hint of adult content, including Blake and Mortimer and XIII, both of which are published in print in the U.S. without any fuss. Then they reviewed those comics and put about half of them back, but that still leaves 1,500 titles that aren’t in the app any more. Izneo took quite a financial hit on this; turns out comics featuring “Les jolies filles un peu sexy” are their top sellers. (This story, it should be said, came from an anonymous source.)


More on that here.

Will Apple relent in the wake of the outcry? They’ve done it before—that ULYSSES comic eventually become available—but the images are unabashedly adult so they may have to stand by their guns. SAGA is not a book to let the little kiddies read—but Apple’s capriciousness is annoying as fuck.

In the end, this story may be more about escalating worries about the problems of collecting digital comics than anything else—we’re pretty certain SAGA’s print sales won’t fall, and you can still purchase it digitally through comiXology’s website or Image Comics’ storefront, which is powered by comiXology. Buying through both of these has the advantage, as writer Sam Humphries points out of giving more money to creators and less to Apple:

Here’s the deal: FIRST buy your digital comics through the Comixology website. Meaning go to the dot com, on a browser on your computer, and buy it there. THEN download the comic to any device — including iOS devices — and read it. That way, Apple cannot restrict what you see.

This is good practice for all digital comics, not just SAGA. By purchasing through the website, more of your money goes directly to the creators and publishers you love, and not to Apple, which doesn’t need more of your money anyway.

Yes, this is a “real” problem, as in, it really matters. If profitable digital distribution is handcuffed by the capricious whims of 3-4 corporations, how are we any better off than we were in the days of the fickle, puritanical Comics Code?

Finally…please join the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and support free speech rights for comics.


Although comiXology has their own content guidelines, they’ve confirmed they will carry SAGA #12—if they didn’t, they would look like the biggest jerks in the world, given what previously appeared in the book. But the whole affair does conjure the ridiculous idea of buying 11 digital issues of SAGA and having them in your “digital bookshelf” and having to buy the new issue in some other way and not having “a complete run” as they say.

Also, what’s going to happen when the collection of SAGA issues 7-12 comes out? Amazon tells us SAGA, Vol. 2 will be out in July—but will you be able to buy it via Apple? The way things look today, you won’t.

Much more to come.

Persepolis still not being taught to seventh graders in Chicago; students stage sit in this morning

As we suspected when the news broke, the removal of Persepolis from the seventh grade curriculum at a Chicago high school turned in to a minor media circus pretty quickly, with school officials saying different things all over the place. If you missed all the confusion, the Chicago Tribune
has the authoritative round up and Claire Kirch covers it for PW. Basically it emerged that the book was not being removed from school libraries or all schools, but it is being removed from the 7-10 grade curriculum where it is is currently being taught. The person who seems to have decided that is at the very top: Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennnet who wrote: [Read more…]

Persepolis removed from Chicago schools amidst confusion; protest scheduled

201303151138.jpg

Marjane Satrapi’s PERSEPOLIS, a stunning coming of age story considered a classic by many, has been ordered removed from Chicago’s Lane Technical High School for reasons that remain unclear.

The story broke at former teacher Fred Klonsky’s blog, where he posted a letter circulated in the Chicago Public School system:

Yesterday afternoon, one of the Network Instructional Support Leaders stopped by my office and informed me (per a directive given during the Chief of Schools meeting on March 11) that all ISLs were directed to physically go to each school in the Network by Friday (3/15) to:

*Confirm that Persepolis is not in the library,
*Confirm that it has not been checked out by a student or teacher,
*Confirm with the school principal that it is not being used in any classrooms,
*And to collect the autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi from all classrooms and the Library.

I was not provided a reason for the collection of Persepolis. If I learn more I will inform all staff.


While there is some speculation that the removal had to do with books that were accidentally ordered, chatter in the comments indicates that this is unlikely—PERSEPOLIS is actually taught in several classes and is included in the new Common Core standards.

Books are not to be removed from school library without due process, and a comment below confirms that it is not being removed from school libraries:

Dear Librarians –
We have received clarification from the Chief Education Office that the directive to remove Persepolis from schools does not apply to school libraries, and that any further challenge or attempt to remove this or any other book from a school library must be guided by the Collection Development policy which outlines the review procedure.
This clarification and a copy of the Collection Development policy has been forwarded to all school chiefs. As you know, the Collection Development policy is posted on the Department of Libraries wiki at http://cpslibraries.wikispaces.com/collectiondev
Any questions regarding copies of Persepolis that are not in the school library should be directed to your principal.


No plausible reason has been given for the removal, and in a later post a librarian suggests that the topic was being squelched:

Fred
I’m a CPS librarian very worried about the possible banning of the book Persepolis. We received the email below today, after HS librarians raised the issue days ago on our listserv. We have a CPS listserv for librarians, but a friend of mine tried to comment on this issue and was censored from discussing the issue further on this listserv.  We were also told it was Fullerton Network where the book was being removed.

-N

201303151140.jpg
Amidst all the confusion and backtracking, a protest has been scheduled for 3:30 this afternoon:

A group of students, parents and teachers from Lane Technical High School are planning a protest this afternoon at the corners of Western and Addison streets. They will be protesting the action of CPS bureaucrats who have attempted to pull the acclaimed graphic novel, Persepolis, off of school book shelves.


As alluded to above, PERSEPOLIS is a modern classic, presenting a moving story of a young woman’s struggle in an oppressive society, that is taught in schools around the world. It was adapted into an Oscar-nominated movie. Although the US has an embarrassing history of removing classic works from schools and libraries, whoever decided to remove this book is pretty certain to end up on the wrong side of history.

What the women of Big Bang Theory found in the comics shop

big-bang-theory-girls-in-comic-shop.jpg
We didn’t watch last night’s hilarious “Women go to a comics shop” episode of Big Bang Theory, but Scott Johnson did so we wouldn’t have to, and the results sound quite ghastly:

Meanwhile, the girls finish reading their new comic books, and they agree that comic books are stupid. Bernadette says, “It’s crazy they spend hours arguing about things that don’t even exist.” Then, the girls get in an argument over what the rules are in regards to no one else being able to pick up Thor’s hammer. They decide to read their comic books again to find out.


More wacky hijinks in the link.

Reading the recap, well it’s just a sitcom, but it sounds like a good snapshot of the world circa 1982. And they say this show is pro nerd?

BTW in the above screencap I note that two of the women–the nerdy ones–are wearing their handbags crossbody, a posture normally used when in a position of danger where flight could be necessary. I guess it’s the little touches that add verisimilitude.