Over the course of the weekend, the case of the banning of a Marvel comics graphic novel from a book festival in Brazil took more twists and dramatic turns than an Aaron Sorkin script. It all began when Rio de Janeiro mayor Marvelo Crivella issued a statement on Twitter calling for the banning of all copies of the Marvel graphic novel collection Avengers: The Children’s Crusade from Bienial Do Livro book festival, the largest literary event in the country according to advertisements. The swan song for Young Avengers co-creators, writer Allan Heinberg and artist Jim Cheung, Children’s Crusade is perhaps most notable for first depicting the long overdue on-panel kiss between teammates Wiccan (Billy Kaplan) and Hulkling (Teddy Altman), who incidentally happen to be both be male. Unsurprisingly Crivella, a former bishop in the giant Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, took umbrage with this particular scene.
In a video statement on Twitter, Crivella said, “Books like this need to be wrapped in black sealed plastic with a content warning displayed on the outside,” and his decision is based on “protecting the minors of our city.”
Cheung took to his Instagram on Friday and posted his reaction to this decision, calling for solidarity.
Despite orders to Rio de Janeiro police to confiscate all copies of Children’s Crusade, officials at the festival refused to comply. This was further compounded by the fact that the book was out of stock or sold out, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Even after a judge initially blocked Crivella’s ban, only to be overturned by another judge ruling in favor of removing the books, the spirit of the Young Avengers was demonstrated in the real world by those rebelling against this decision. Brazilian YouTube celebrity Felipe Neto purchased 14,000 copies of Children’s Crusade and handed them out for free, wrapped in black plastic, with the warning: “Book inappropriate for backward … and prejudiced people.” Speaking with The Guardian, Neto said:
“Although we [are] going through the most frightening government in terms of repression since the dictatorship, this time we have a united and engaged people who will not permit that censorship, the imposition of others’ moral values.”
In a testament to the scope of this issue, the book banning made the front page of the Saturday edition of the São Paulo daily Folha de S.Paulo, the largest newspaper in Brazil.
It is not everyday that comics make the front page of the largest newspaper in Brazil. The reason? Rio de Janeiro's (evangelical bishop turned politician) mayor requested that the largest book fair in the country recall an Avengers comic book because of a gay kiss in it. pic.twitter.com/QKQAiyVlrm
— Rodrigo Zeidan (@RodZeidan) September 7, 2019
Justice prevailed when the Brazil Supreme Court overruled Crivella’s ban. From the Associated Press:
A Brazilian Supreme Court justice has blocked efforts by Rio de Janeiro’s conservative mayor to have a book fair remove a comic book showing two men kissing.
Mayor Marcelo Crivella had ordered the Bienale to remove the “Avengers” comic that included the kiss, saying he was acting to protect children against “sexual content.”
That set off a legal battle as federal Attorney General Raquel Dodge challenged the move by Crivella, a former evangelical pastor. She said allowing the mayor to remove books goes against freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas.
A lower court sided with Crivella. But chief justice José Dias Toffoli ruled in favor of Dodge on Sunday, blocking the mayor from removing any books. Crivella’s office said he will appeal to the full court.
While LGBTQ people in Brazil still face ongoing challenges, including the notoriously anti-LGBTQ stances of President Jair Bolsonaro. Just last June, the Brazilian Supreme Court voted to criminalize acts of homophobia.
Based on Crivella’s office intending to appeal the court’s overruling of his book ban, I have a feeling this saga is far from completely over — and it reflects a broader struggle for LGBTQ rights in Brazil.