June Vigants writes for Bleeding Cool:
At a convention as large as New York Comic-Con, it's easy to get swept away by the latest superhero movie, hottest new game, or latest big name trade paperback release. People might often overlook the importance of defending comic book content – especially creator owned publications.
The American Library Association sponsored a panel titled "Saving Indecent Comics" this afternoon, and it was a very well organized and meaningful account of the harsh reality faced by some of the most influential graphic works in the industry.
Panelists included Thomas Maluck, Huyen Diep, Anna Call, Emma Weiler, Marissa Lieberman, and Jessikah Chautin, all librarians who have experienced censorship when building their collections of graphic novels for their respective libraries.
Specific examples used in the panel included Allison Bechdel's Fun Home. It's no secret that it has received heavy criticism in the past while being included as mandatory reading for college courses. It was primarily public college campuses that expressed concern over the graphic novel being used as course material, with critics citing it's sexual content as being too graphic for students – college level students.
Surprisingly enough, Jeff Smith's beloved Bone series has also faced quite a variety of concerned criticism and has been challenged to be removed from children's library sections because parents felt that the depiction of characters (occasionally) smoking cigars and drinking conflicted with child reader's participation in the D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program.
It's worth nothing the Bugs Bunny cartoons and even older Disney shorts that contained adult content that hadn't even been considered for censorship until very recently.
The appearance of Japanese Manga in the Western world of comics – and American libraries, was also addressed, specifically with Dragon Ball Z and the complex but diverse approach to topics such as nudity and violence exhibited in Akira Toriyama's classic saga. The stigma associated with Japanese manga was also addressed, in that people might assume it's either overly sexualized or that it's simply for kids. This confusion can get librarians in trouble, even if they stock the manga in the appropriate sections.
It's great that we as creators, fans, and vendors alike have been able to come together for Comic conventions – especially considering the grand scale of one such as New York Comic-Con. It's hard to think that beyond the threshold of the Javits center lies a world where the sincerity and message of certain works can face what is often uneducated and feared judgement.
The panelists arrived at a very real assessment of this in saying that one offense creates an average as it attracts more concern with others. There is a huge importance in educating those who form such opinions and wether or not you find yourself in defense or opposition, it is always vital to draw a line – sometimes it's better to put the book down if it's just not your preferred subject matter, or if you can't be bothered to read it and make an accurate judgement call in the first place.
Anna Call, Marissa Lieberman, and Jessikah Chautin, Thomas Maluk and Emma Weller are all involved in No Flying No Tights, an online resource for librarians about comics and graphic novels. Reviews and workshops pertaining to Manga, Anime, Comics, and Graphic novels can all be found on their website at http://noflyingnotights.com
Additionally, the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grant for Librarians is open for applications. The grant exists to support libraries that would like to expand their existing graphic novel collections. More can be found at Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries | Games & Gaming Round Table (GameRT)