Tag: graphic novels

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

Assassination Classroom

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/



Banned Spotlight: Censored Comics

Comics are challenged for all of the same reasons that other books are challenged, but they are uniquely vulnerable to challenges because of their visual nature. Because comics thrive on the power of the static image, a single page or panel can be the impetus for a challenge in a way that’s different from a passage in a book. Some people still believe that comics are low value speech or are made exclusively for children, and object to comics in the library because of these misconceptions.

Here’s a sampling of the most common reasons comics are challenged:

  • Profanity/offensive language
  • Sex or nudity
  • Violence and horror
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Politically/socially/racially offensive
  • Offensive to religious beliefs

Banned Books Week Coalition member Comic Book Legal Defense Fund specializes in the defense of comics and graphic novels and the First Amendment rights of the comics community. A few of the comics they have defended over the years follow.

CBLDF is partnering with Image Comics and the ALA Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table on a series of livestreams with comics creators during Banned Books Week. Find out more…

Amazing Spider-Man: Revelations by J. Michael Straczynski, John Romita, Jr., and Scott Hanna

  • Location of key challenge: A middle-school library in Millard, Nebraska
  • Reason challenged: Sexual overtones

The parent of a 6-year-old who checked out the book filed a complaint and took the story to the media; the parent also withheld the book for the duration of the review process rather than returning it per library policy. More…

Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa 

  • Location of key challenge: Japan
  • Reason challenged: Violence, discrimination

Keiji Nakazawa’s internationally renowned manga Barefoot Gen, which depicts wartime atrocities from the perspective of the seven-year-old protagonist, has fallen victim to several challenges in its home country of Japan. More…

Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley

  • Location of key challenge: Stark County District Library in Canton, Ohio
  • Reason challenged: Sexism, offensive language, and unsuited to age group

Despite the challenge, the library retained the book and now holds two copies, which are shelved in the Teen section. More…

Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Boland

  • Location of key challenge: Columbus, Nebraska, Public Library
  • Reason challenged: Advocates rape and violence

In May 2013, a patron of the public library in Columbus, Nebraska requested that the book be removed from the collection, claiming that it “advocates rape and violence.” More…

Blankets by Craig Thompson

  • Location of key challenge: The public library in Marshall, Missouri
  • Reason challenged: Obscene images

CBLDF wrote a letter to the Marshall library on behalf of Blankets and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, playing a key role in keeping both books on shelves. More…

Bone by Jeff Smith

  • Location of key challenge: Independent School District 196 in Rosemount, Minnesota
  • Reason challenged: Promotion of smoking and drinking

A letter from Jeff Smith decrying the attempted ban of his book was read aloud at the library review committee’s hearing, and the challenge was ultimately rejected by a 10-1 vote, to the praise of Smith and the CBLDFMore…

The Diary of a Teenage Girl by Phoebe Gloeckner

  • Location of key challenge: Undisclosed
  • Reason challenged: Sexual content

Artist and comics creator Phoebe Gloeckner has never been afraid to show the raw and gritty bits of reality in her work. For that reason, Gloekner’s work is a frequent target of censors. In 2015, CBLDF was involved in a confidential challenge against the graphic novel over its sexual content, and our efforts kept the book on shelves. More…

Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama

  • Location of key challenge: All public school libraries in Wicomico County, Maryland
  • Reason challenged: Violence and nudity

The library review committee recommended that the books in the Dragon Ball series, which were recommended by the publisher for ages 13+, be removed from the entire public school library system, including at the high school level. More…

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

  • Location of key challenge: Chapel Hill Elementary School in Mount Pleasant, Texas
  • Reason challenged: Sexual content

Although most readers of all ages found Drama to be just as endearing and authentic as Telgemeier’s other books Smile and Sisters, a small but vocal minority have objected to the inclusion of two gay characters. More…

The Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa

  • Location of key challenge: Various
  • Reason challenged: Nudity, sexual content, and unsuited to age group

When the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom released their list of the Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2011, the second-most challenged book on that list was The Color of Earth, the first book of a critically-acclaimed Korean manwha, or comic book, series. More…

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel 

  • Location of key challenge: Various
  • Reason challenged: Obscene images

CBLDF wrote a letter to the Marshall library on behalf of Fun Home and Craig Thompson’s Blankets, playing a key role in keeping both books on shelves. In 2014, the book faced a greater challenge in South Carolina, where the state legislature debated punitive budget cuts against the College of Charleston because it incorporated Fun Home into a voluntary summer reading program for incoming freshman. More…

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell

  • Location of key challenge: Undisclosed
  • Reason challenged: Violent imagery

In February 2015, CBLDF was confidentially involved the defense of the graphic novel edition of The Graveyard Book, which was challenged in an undisclosed middle school library for violent imagery. More…

Ice Haven by Daniel Clowes

  • Location of key challenge: A high school in Guilford, Connecticut
  • Reason challenged: Profanity, course language, and brief non-sexual nudity

A high school teacher was forced to resign from his job after a parent filed both a complaint with the school and a police complaint against the teacher for lending a high school freshman a copy of Eightball #22, which was later published as the graphic novel Ice HavenMore…

In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

  • Location of key challenge: Various
  • Reason challenged: Nudity

In the Night Kitchen was not often removed from shelves; instead, librarians censored it by painting underwear or diapers over the genitals of the main character, a precocious child named Mickey. More…

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill

  • Location of key challenge: Jessamine County Public Library in Kentucky
  • Reason challenged: Sex scenes

Two employees of the Jessamine County Public Library in Kentucky were fired after they took it upon themselves to withhold the library’s copy of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier from circulation because they felt it was pornographic. More…

Maus by Art Spiegelman

  • Location of key challenge: Pasadena Public Library in Pasadena, California
  • Reason challenged: Anti-ethnic and unsuited for age group

Nick Smith of the Pasadena Public Library describes the challenge as being “made by a Polish-American who is very proud of his heritage, and who had made other suggestions about adding books on Polish history… The thing is, Maus made him uncomfortable, so he didn’t want other people to read it. That is censorship, as opposed to parental guidance.” More…

Neonomicon by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows

  • Location of key challenge: Greenville, South Carolina, public library
  • Reason challenged: Sexual content

Despite giving her 14-year-old daughter permission to check out the book, which was appropriately shelved in the adult section of the library, a mother filed a complaint, claiming the book was “pornographic.” CBLDF wrote a letter in support of the book, but it remains out of circulation pending review. More…

Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez

  • Location of key challenge: Rio Rancho, New Mexico
  • Reason challenged: Sexual content, child pornography

In early 2015, the critically acclaimed comic collection Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez was called “child porn” by the mother of a high school student in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. More…

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

  • Location of key challenge: Various
  • Reason challenged: Profanity, violent content

Furor erupted in 2013 when Chicago Public Schools sent an email to local principals, directing them to remove all copies of Marjane Satrapi’s award-winning graphic novel Persepolis. CPS backpedaled on the initial email, but the book was removed from Grade 7 classrooms and use in Grade 8 -10 classrooms now requires additional teacher training. Possibly as a result of publicity from the 2013 CPS ban, Persepolis faced three more school challenges in 2014, landing it the #2 spot on the American Library Association’s Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books for that year. More…

Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon

  • Location of key challenge: Various
  • Reason challenged: Sexual content

Despite receiving high praise from the ALA and Booklist and featuring a cast consisting of animals, the book has been challenged at libraries for sexual content. More…

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

  • Location of Challenge: Apple iOS (2013), Oregon (2014)
  • Reason challenged: Sexual content, anti-family, nudity, offensive language, and unsuited for age group.

Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples sci-fi epic adventure, Saga, has not only become one of the bestselling and most critically acclaimed comic series since its debut in March 2012, but it has also become one of the most controversial comics. More…

Sandman by Neil Gaiman and various artists

  • Location of key challenge: Various
  • Reason challenged: Anti-family themes, offensive language, and unsuited for age group

When asked about how he felt when Sandman was labelled unsuitable for teens, Gaiman responded, “I suspect that having a reputation as adult material that’s unsuitable for teens will probably do more to get teens to read Sandmanthan having the books ready and waiting on the YA shelves would ever do.” More…

SideScrollers by Matthew Loux

  • Location of key challenge: Enfield, Connecticut, public school district
  • Reason challenged: Profanity and sexual references

The school district removed the book from non-compulsory summer reading lists, possibly violating its own review policy, which states in part that “no parent nor group of parents has the right to negate the use of educational resources for students other than his/her own child.” CBLDF wrote a letter in support of the book and is still awaiting a response from the school board. More…

Stuck in the Middle, edited by Ariel Schrag

  • Location of key challenge: Dixfield, Maine, public school system
  • Reason challenged: Language, sexual content, and drug references

CBLDF wrote a letter in support of the book, and the school board voted to leave the book on library shelves with the caveat the students must have parental permission to check out the book. “While we’re pleased to see the book retained in the library’s collection, we’re very disappointed that it is retained with restrictions,” said Executive Director Charles Brownstein. More…

Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse

  • Location of key challenge: Montgomery County Memorial Library System, Texas
  • Reason challenged: Depiction of homosexuality

The book was challenged alongside 15 other young adult books with gay positive themes. The book was ultimately retained in the Montgomery County system, but was reclassified from Young Adult to Adult. More…

Tank Girl by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett

  • Location of key challenge: Hammond Public Library in Hammond, Indiana
  • Reason challenged: Nudity and violence

The Tank Girl books are meant to entertain an adult audience, frequently depicting violence, flatulence, vomiting, sex, and drug use. After the 2009 challenge, the Hammond Public Library chose to retain the book, and it remains on shelves today. More…

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

  • Location of key challenge: Various
  • Reason challenged: Sexual content, unsuited to age group

Graphic novel This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki 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: Since the announcement of the Caldecott honor, CBLDF has been confidentially involved in monitoring challenges to This One Summer in various communities. More…

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

  • Location of key challenge: Various
  • Reason challenged: Unsuited to age group

Watchmen received a Hugo Award in 1988 and was instrumental in garnering more respect and shelf space for comics and graphic novels in libraries and mainstream bookstores. The inclusion of Watchmen in school library collections has been challenged by parents at least twice, according to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual FreedomMore…

Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra

  • Location of key challenge: Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, California
  • Reason challenged: Sexual content

In June 2015, Y: The Last Man was one of four graphic novels that a 20-year-old college student and her parents said should be “eradicated from the system” at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, California. After completing an English course on graphic novels, Tara Shultz publicly raised objections to PersepolisFun HomeY: The Last Man Vol. 1, and The Sandman Vol. 2: The Doll’s House as “pornography” and “garbage.” More…

Originally posted by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

Banned Spotlight: Drama

One would think there wouldn’t be much controversy around a bestselling graphic novel about a middle school play — a graphic novel that includes no profanity, drug or alcohol use, or sexual content. But Raina Telgemeier’s acclaimed and immensely popular Drama has been on the hit lists of a number of would-be censors, who claim the book is offensive because it includes LGBTQ characters. Drama held the #3 spot on ALA’s top ten challenged books list in 2017, and it also had the dubious honor of appearing on the 2016 list for offensive political viewpoint and the 2014 list for being sexually explicit.

Callie, the protagonist of Drama, loves the theater, but she’s no singer, so she’s the set designer for her school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi. But she doesn’t know much about carpentry, and there’s no way she can afford Broadway production on a middle-school budget. Callie befriends two cute twin brothers: Justin, who is openly gay, and Jesse, who is still struggling with his sexual identity. In the course of the story, Jesse ends up assuming a female role in the play because the original actress cannot perform, and he shares a chaste kiss on stage with another male character.

Drama, which was published in 2012, won the Stonewall Honor and was nominated for a Harvey Award. It was listed as a Best Book of 2012 by School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and The Washington Post. The New Times and Booklist included it on their Editor’s Choice lists, and NPR named it a great summer read for teens.

Drama has been banned on multiple occasions in Texas. The state ACLU releases an annual banned books report, usually in conjunction with Banned Books Week. In the 2016-17 school year, Drama was the only banned book in the Texas ACLU’s findings. It was removed from the Franklin Independent School District. It was also banned from Chapel Hill Elementary in Mount Pleasant in 2014-15, as well as Kirbyville Middle School in 2015-16.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has also helped defuse a number of potential challenges to the book and provides resources in support of it:

Find more of ALA OIF’s top ten challenged and banned lists here.