Tuesday, September 23, 2014
I Read Banned Comics, and You Should Too
Ideas are probably the most powerful thing out there, and that's why people are so afraid of them. This week is Banned Book Week, a week to celebrate the books that scare people, and to remind us that there's still this mindset that says we should hide, destroy, or burn ideas that we don't agree with. And there are more than a few comics, some of which I have written about before, that now fall on the list of Banned Books.
Any discussion of comics and banned comics should start off with a mention of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. For those of you unfamiliar, the CBLDF is a charity that defends the right to sell, buy, and read any and all comics. It has helped with the legal bills of creators and retailers who have gotten into legal trouble. I do my best to contribute when I can, because I feel very strongly about censorship, and you might want to go to their site and do some reading about it before coming back and reading my much lighter little piece. There is a history of comic book censorship, case studies, and this piece on twenty-two banned and challenged comics.
This is a short piece, not the most in depth, but the more I write, the more frustrated I get by the whole thing. I don't think I've ever written or rewritten anything so many times. I originally had a couple paragraphs here going through some of the banned comics and pointing out how ridiculous I felt the reasons for banning them were. But that was a lot of negativity. So, I'm just going to say this: look at some of the books that are banned or censored: The Sandman, Bone, Maus, Persepolis, Pride of Baghdad, Fun Home, Blankets, and Watchmen. All of these are works of real literary merit. And part of the truly insidious thing about comic censorship is that we still live in a culture where some people assume that comics means kids, and so we often get bannings for "not suitable for age group." That drives me crazy. I've met twelve year olds who could handle more mature material than thirty-two year olds. There is no "age group" when it comes to literature. It's an individual thing. Sorry, sorry, stepping off my soapbox now.
I was raised to respect ideas. I don't like every book out there. There are some I disdain because of their views, and there are some I think are just plain crappy. But that doesn't mean I can force that opinion on others. So, all I'm asking is that this week, think about what it means to live in a country where you can read what you want, and do something to help insure that others can too, even if it's just reading a banned comic yourself. In those pages are ideas that might just change a little of your world.