I've lived on Long Island in New York for over a decade now, and in my time here, I've learned some things about the whacky folks here. They love bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwiches from the deli. They love yelling out of car windows at people, usually while the car is moving. They love that every shopping center includes a bagel shop, a pizzeria, and a Chinese Food takeout place. One thing they don't love, though, is their kids being handed a mature comic book from their local library on Free Comic Book Day.
Fungirl: Tales of a Grown-Up Nothing by Elizabeth Pich, a mature comic from Silver Sprocket, was initially lined up as a Free Comic Book Day issue until FCBD sponsor Coca-Cola got wind of the comic's mature content and put the kibosh on that.
And if that weren't enough controversy, it seems some issues were indeed printed and sent out to participating FCBD places, including the Farmingdale Public Library in Farmingdale, NY, where issues of Fungirl were packaged with other FCBD comics in a free giveaway bag to children and families.
Upon seeing the mature sexual content of Fungirl, the parents were very upset. They demanded answers from the library, who assumed it was a harmless all-ages comic because of the unassuming cover.
The FCBD comics were distributed by Diamond Comic Distributors, who were made aware of the problem by the library. Ashton Greenwood, a Diamond spokesperson, said the following in reference to the controversy.
"Each participating library orders the age-related titles they would like to receive (All Ages, Teen, Mature) and then receives an assortment of titles based on the requested age-ratings. Given this mishap by the library, we are reviewing guidelines going forward."
As you see at the above link, the local news reporting on this referred to the comic as "pornographic," which I think is a pretty big stretch. While we all remember the quote by United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in his description of pornography as "I know it when I see it," it's not really that simple.
Pornography exists for the sexual gratification of the viewer, and Fungirl, while certainly a mature title with heavy sexual situations and imagery, is not that. If it were put on film, it could probably air on HBO or Showtime. If we want to accept and celebrate comics as a legitimate art form, then we must accept that, like any other medium, there is adult content, and just because it contains sexual imagery, it doesn't make it smut.
Now that being said, no one has the right to subject children to adult content like that, and guardrails need to be implemented to make sure something like this doesn't happen again. I know this sounds like I'm playing the "yeah, but…" game, but we're allowed to have nuance when discussing things.
If you're interested in reading Fungirl for yourself after reading all of this hoopla, Silver Sprocket will be releasing a hardcover collection this October. Here's the synopsis if you're interested:
Fungirl is a hapless (hopeless) mess of a woman crashing through life, leaving mayhem in her wake. Her oblivious antics infuriate her roommate-slash-ex-girlfriend and threaten any opportunity for employment, but surely Fungirl will figure it all out… eventually. A love letter to that chaotic friend with a heart of gold!