Craig Yoe Puts His Heart into Ban This Book!: Starring Match and Book

"Why should history be a mystery?" asks the character named 'Book' at one point in Craig Yoe's Ban This Book!: Starring Match and Book.  Yoe is well qualified to pose that question and others on the subject of the censorship of comics and books.  Although he is best known as a publisher of an impressive range of books on comic book history today, Yoe has also lived through some interesting times when it comes to censorship, free speech, and related matters.  While comics, books, and other publications of course have a long history of being subjected to censorship, Yoe tells me that he was prompted to react at this time by recent incidents such as the livestreamed burning of books including Twilight and Harry Potter, as well as the decision by a Tennessee school board to remove Maus from its curriculum.

Craig Yoe's Ban This Book!: Starring Match and Book
Craig Yoe's Ban This Book!: Starring Match and Book

But a look at Yoe's background as a publisher and creator reveals a much longer acquaintance with the subjects of free speech and censorship.  When I asked him about the last time that he published a book comprised of his own artwork, he reached back to Sammy Saved and Al Most #1 circa 1969/70, which also features cover color by Underground Comix legend Rick Griffin.  Of course, the late-1960s and early 1970s Underground Comix era saw booksellers arrested over another title that Griffin contributed to, Robert Crumb's Zap Comix among other comics. Yoe himself had a first-hand brush with censorship alongside another Underground Comix figure as a high school student in 1969.  "I put out with Paul Mavrides [of Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers fame] a high school hippie newspaper call The Crocus," he explains. "The flower child's answer to our school's newspaper The Firestone Focus. On the back of Ban This Book! I mention how the principle banned The Crocus."

"I was hauled to jail a few times," Yoe elaborates about the subsequent period during which he was organizing student protests at the University of Akron just as tragic events at Kent State University a few miles away were shifting the course of US history. "The FBI had a file on me for my anti-war activities like organizing demonstrations and marches like when I poured blood on my draft board files."

While Amazon lists it in the Children's Comics & Graphic Novels category among others, Ban This Book!: Starring Match and Book is a concise volume that defies categorization.  In the best tradition of engaging important subjects with comic art, it reminds me of a long-form editorial cartoon as much as anything else — intended to provoke thought and discussion among all audiences rather than preach to any particular choir.  It's available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and also available for comic shops to order via Ingrams.   As Yoe himself sums it up, "It's a picture book, a comic, a kids book, an adult book. It's my heart spilled onto paper."

Craig Yoe's Ban This Book!: Starring Match and Book
Craig Yoe's Ban This Book!: Starring Match and Book

The hothead Match meets his match when he rails against what's in Book's book bag: a suspicious book! All of Match's fiery criticisms are based on real situations, when books were challenged, banned, or even burned—oh, my! Portions from the sale of this book go to nonpartisan organizations that advocate for First Amendment rights, which protect freedom of the press.]Craig Yoe is a former creative director for Disney, Nickelodeon, and The Muppets, and is the author of over 100 books. Yoe is the winner of the Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators as well as multiple Eisner Awards. The artist's first publication was made as a high schooler 53 years ago. It was banned by the school principal.

Craig Yoe's Ban This Book!: Starring Match and Book
Craig Yoe's Ban This Book!: Starring Match and Book

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About Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler. Machine Learning hobbyist. Vintage paper addict.
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