In “Shelf It: Dr. Wertham paging Dr. Karen” by Nate Powell, a short comic posted to The Nib on Tuesday, February 1st, 2022, the current state of comic book censorship is apprised… And it’s an all-hands on-deck emergency.
Powell is the cartoonist who collaborated with the late Congressman John Lewis on the March and Run trilogies, and he draws on his experiences surrounding those books to discuss the sinister methods in which censorship takes hold – for example, he cites a 2014 incident in which a middle school library refused to purchase the nonfiction March: Book One, fearing retribution from angry parents (including possibly the loss of her job).
In addition to his personal experience with having his own work censored, Powell has long considered symbols, and how they are used to control meaning (see the “Pecking Order” chapter of 2021’s Save it For Later: Promises, Parenthood, and the Urgency of Protest, which you can also read online for free at The Nib).
This expertise is evident throughout “Shelf It”: note specifically the phone case clutched by the adult who is censoring the child’s eyes, for example.
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“Comics are the most democratic mass storytelling medium,” writes Powell, which explains why fascists are so eager to ensure the people who need them most can’t get their hands on them. The only solution? To read the comics anyway!
Did you get a chance to read “Shelf It” on The Nib? What did you think of the urgent plea in protest of censorship? The Beat wants to hear from you! Share your thoughts with us, either here in the comment section or over on social media @comicsbeat.
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