Censoring Comics

By Brenda Clough
This image could be one of those Facebook memes — if you know what this is, we know how old you are!

There was a time when almost every single comic book had one of these seals at the top corner.  The Comics Code Authority was the fruit of the campaign of Dr. Frederic Wertham to censor or ban comic books.  Accused of promoting violence, juvenile deliquency and needle drugs, the comics industry set up the Code to keep the field alive.

It all sounds like antiquated lunacy today — like a plot arc from MAD MEN.   But you will be depressed to learn that comics censorship is very much alive indeed.  

Internet publication, social media, the availability of small press publication — all these have led to a boom in highly diverse comic books, many reviewed right here on BVC’s blog.   Comics now can deal with gender, religious, sexual and political issues that were inconceivable a generation ago. And this has led to cries for censorship — or much worse.   Most comic book writers, artist and publishers are small businesses. They are extraordinarily vulnerable to frivolous lawsuits.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is the primary watchdog of this issue.  They provide legal advice and funds to artists, writers, and comic book stores who get sued by book banners — you often see their donation boxes at the cash register in comic book stores — but their website has all kinds of useful material, including casefiles of the litigation they’re keeping an eye on, news about exhibits (Daumier, a banned graphic artist, who knew?) and more.

As you might expect, the CBLDF is supported by many great comic book writers and artists, and there are frequent benefit auctions and promotional giveaways which you can keep an eye out for.  Remember, this Banned Books Week, that comic books are banned too!

My newest novel Speak to Our Desires is out exclusively from Book View Café.

I also have stories in Book View Cafe’s two steampunk anthologies, The Shadow Conspiracy and The Shadow Conspiracy II, as well as in BVC’s many other anthologies, including our latest, Beyond Grimm.

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About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.