11 Challenged and Banned Comics
Comics are one of the most commonly attacked types of books, with challenges and bans happening every year. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and several other members of the Banned Books Week Coalition defend comics from censorship. Here’s a look at some of the titles they’ve worked to protect.
Find out more about these challenged and banned comics and other censored titles at http://cbldf.org
Yusei Matsui (VIZ Media, 2014)
In early 2019, Assassination Classroom was pulled from a school library on Staten Island over parental objections to its title and themes. The book’s removal runs contrary to New York City Department of Education guidelines. The manga is currently pending review by an evaluation committee and is unavailable to readers who may find insight and enjoyment in its pages.
The series follows a group of misfit students, who pledge to stop an alien supervillain disguised as a teacher from destroying the world. The series uses comedy and superhero tropes to emphasize the values of camaraderie among students and the impact that good teaching can have in the lives of pupils others have discarded.
Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic / Graphix, 2012)
Raina Telgemeier’s Drama, a graphic novel about the joys and tribulations of a middle school drama troupe, received universal critical praise upon its publication in 2012. Although most readers found Drama to be just as endearing and authentic as Telgemeier’s previous books, Smile and Sisters, a small but vocal minority have objected to the inclusion of two gay characters, one of whom shares a chaste on-stage kiss with another boy. The book was listed among the country’s top ten most banned books in 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006)
Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic examines the author’s childhood, particularly her relationship with her closeted gay father Bruce. As Alison grows older and realizes that she is a lesbian, she and Bruce are both forced to confront how his repression may have affected her own self-image and the way that she dealt with her sexuality. The book has been included on numerous best-of lists and earned the National Book Critics Circle Award and awards such as the Eisner, the Stonewall Book Award, the GLAAD Media Award, and the Lambda Literary Award (lesbian memoir and biography). It was also adapted into a Tony Award–winning musical. Despite these extraordinary accolades, Fun Home has been singled out for bans and challenges in colleges, public libraries, and high schools. It was also targeted by the South Carolina legislature and in a New Jersey lawsuit.
The Graveyard Book
Adapted by P. Craig Russell from the novel by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins, 2014)
In 2015, CBLDF successfully defended the graphic novel edition of The Graveyard Book from a middle school library ban for violent imagery. P. Craig Russell’s graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Newbery Medal-winning prose novel tells the story of Nobody Owens, a boy raised by ghosts, and his adventures through the graveyard where he lives. Publishers Weekly called it “a vastly entertaining adaptation… It’s a treasure worth having even if the novel is already on the shelf.”
Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass
By Lilah Sturges and polterink (BOOM! Studios, 2018)
In summer 2019, an event with author and transgender rights advocate Lilah Sturges was canceled just two hours before she was scheduled to talk about Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass at Leander Public Library in Texas. The city gave inadequate reasons, claiming temporary changes to library event policies, as well as the lack of a previously undiscussed background check. CBLDF led an immediate effort to reverse the cancelation, which a local news outlet confirmed is likely an act of discrimination against Sturges and the LGBTQ+ community. This is the second recent incident of identity censorship in Leander, following a June ban on Drag Queen Story Hour.
Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon, 2007)
Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir of growing up during the Iranian Revolution, has received international acclaim since its initial publication in French. Although it was certainly controversial in the Middle East, there were no publicly reported challenges or bans of the book in U.S. schools or libraries until March 2013, when Chicago Public Schools administrators abruptly pulled it from some classrooms.
A cascade of bans and challenges followed, landing the book in the second spot on the American Library Association’s Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books for 2014. In 2015, a 20-year-old college student and her parents said the book should be “eradicated from the system” at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, California. CBLDF stood up for the book numerous times in these cases and others, leading to its successful retention in most.
Stuck in the Middle
Edited by Ariel Schrag (Viking Juvenile, 2007)
Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Stories from an UNPLEASANT Age is an anthology of stories about the challenges of early teen years, with contributions from Daniel Clowes, Dash Shaw, Gabrielle Bell, Lauren Weinstein, and more. Praised by Booklist, The New York Times, and Publishers Weekly, it was also selected for New York Public Library’s “Books for the Teen Age” list in 2008. The book has been banned in multiple communities. Most recently, an Oklahoma middle school pulled the book from library shelves after one parent called it “trash” and complained of vulgarities, sexual references, and drug use in some of the stories, without noting that those references are there to address real-life problems facing teens.
Sword Art Online: Aincrad
Reki Kawahara and abec (Yen Press, 2017)
CBLDF took the lead in defending the manga Sword Art Online: Aincrad after it was challenged at a middle school in Jerome, Idaho, where the book was ultimately retained. The first volume in a manga series by Reki Kawahara and illustrated by abec was challenged by a Jerome Middle School teacher on behalf of a student who found both language and drawings in the book to be “inappropriate.” The images that perturbed the student reportedly involved “a female character wearing underwear and sharing a bed with a male character.”
This One Summer
Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki (First Second, 2014)
This One Summer broke boundaries by becoming the first graphic novel to make the short list for the Caldecott Medal. Unfortunately, the Caldecott honor yielded an unforeseen negative outcome: increased calls to ban the book.
This One Summer addresses the challenges of adolescence in a sensitive and nuanced storyline that has achieved wide acclaim. It was named the most challenged book of 2016, the seventh most challenged title of 2018, and it has been among CBLDF’s most frequently defended titles.
The Walking Dead
Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (Image Comics, 2003)
At the end of the 2019 school year, the Wallace School District in Silverton, Idaho, banned The Walking Dead over concerns about “graphic imagery.” A former teacher opened an investigation into the series, and a review committee was formed to examine the books. The committee voted to retain the series, but an administrator overruled the decision and unilaterally removed the books from school shelves. Students are also restricted from bringing personal copies of the series onto campus, and the district is contemplating a system to prohibit students from accessing it through interlibrary loan. CBLDF is currently fighting the ban.
Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (DC Comics, 1987)
The graphic novel that changed everything about superheroes is also one of the most frequently banned comics! Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen has been praised by critics and fans alike since its 1986 debut. The alternate history reimagines the superhero genre, employing political allegory, adult themes, and unprecedented formal inventiveness in a murder mystery involving flawed heroes.
Watchmen won the Hugo Award in 1988 and has been instrumental in garnering more respect and shelf space for comics and graphic novels in libraries and mainstream bookstores. The same qualities that led to Watchmen’s massive acclaim also led to its challenge in school library collections.
Source: Read Banned Comics, http://cbldf.org/librarian-tools/cbldf-banned-books-week-handbook/
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