Recently, the world's best-selling comic book creator, Dav Pilkey and his publisher Scholastic chose to pull their ten-year-old graphic novel Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung Fu Caveman From The Future from sale. The publisher and creator decided, in the light of changing attitudes, that they were going to pull the Captain Underpants spin-off over the stereotypical depiction of East Asian people in the comic.
This wasn't as a result of some kind of mob rule demand, it was just one person. BK, a Korean-American father wrote to Pilkey and Scholastic, stating that his children are fans of Pilkey's books and rented Ook and Gluk from the library, but that he noted repeat use of racist and stereotypical tropes in the comic. As a result of those conversations, and those conversation alone, Pilkey and Scholastic chose to pull the book. Later, after public pressure, Pilkey issued the following statement;
About ten years ago I created a book about a group of friends who save the world using Kung Fu and the principles found in Chinese philosophy. The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future was intended to showcase diversity, equality, and non-violent conflict resolution. But this week it was brought to my attention that this book also contains harmful racial stereotypes and passively racist imagery. I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for this. It was and is wrong and harmful to my Asian readers, friends, and family, and to all Asian people.
My publisher, Scholastic, Inc., has stepped forward to share my responsibility, and together we are ceasing all further publication of The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future, and are actively working to remove existing copies from retail and library shelves. I hope that you, my readers, will forgive me, and learn from my mistake that even unintentional and passive stereotypes and racism are harmful to everyone. I apologize, and I pledge to do better.
Sincerely, Dav Pilkey
PS: My wife and I pledge to donate all of my advance and royalties from the sale of The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future to charities that provide free books, art supplies, and theater for children in underserved communities; organizations that promote diversity in children's books and publishing; and organizations designed to stop hatred and violence against Asian. These non-profit charities include: We Need Diverse Books, The AAPI, and TheaterWorks USA, among others.
And as a result, people have been screaming about "cancel culture" as if this is something new. Throughout the history of publication, publishers and authors have withdrawn books from sale of their own volition as the cultural mood has changed. No one is screaming "cancel culture" because Little Sambo isn't as available in bookstores as it once was. And does anyone really want Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None to revert to its original title? And I don't mean Ten Little Indians. Is anyone clamouring for Tom And Jerry's "Mammy Two Shoes" to be in their movie, as they are Pepe Le Pew to be in Space Jam 2?
Anyway, despite having sold a million of copies of Ook and Gluk: Kung Fu Caveman from the Future, copies of the book hit eBay and people treated them as if they were NFT copies of the book.
It used to be that to get a comic book value to spike like this, you had to get a rumour going that it was going to be made into a movie. Now, you just have to let people suspect that it is about to be "cancelled".
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