Bleeding Cool reported earlier today on the involvement of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund in the $2.5 million defamation lawsuit filed against several independent cartoonists by comic creator and publisher Cody Pickrodt. Bleeding Cool's Rich Johnston wrote:
I am also expecting a response from SPX, the small press comic convention that the defendants – and accuser – have regularly attended, and who regularly raises large sums of money for the CBLDF. Their upcoming show is in two weeks in Bethesda, Maryland. I anticipate a joint effort from them both regarding this.
Now, SPX has revealed the details of that joint effort in a press release. In addition to donating $20,000 to the legal defense of the 11 defendants, SPX, in consultation with the CBLDF. Half of the money comes from funds the SPX normally donates to CBLDF each year, the press release said.
Read the full release below, including a joint statement from the defendants, as well as statements from SPX Executive Director Warren Bernard and newly announced CBLDF President Christina Merkler.
Small Press Expo Establishes Legal Aid Fund for Cartoonists With $20,000 Donation
Bethesda, Maryland – August 30, 2018
Media Release – Small Press Expo announced today that it will immediately make available $20,000 and also launch a legal aid fundraising vehicle to support members of the SPX community who are currently facing a defamation lawsuit. The fundraising vehicle, administered by SPX, and created in consultation with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, will be established for the purposes of defraying the cost of legal representation for the eleven members of the independent comics community named as defendants in the ongoing lawsuit.
SPX is seeding the immediately needed monies with a $10,000 donation. Additionally, SPX will forego its annual $10,000 donation it had planned to give to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund for 2018, instead redirecting those resources–with the full encouragement of the CBLDF Board of Directors–to serve the legal defense of our community members in their moment of need. SPX has already made this initial $20,000 available to the defendants, to ensure their access to appropriate legal counsel as quickly as possible.
In the next few weeks, SPX will establish the ongoing legal aid fundraising vehicle for the public to help cover the costs of the defendants in this case. The CBLDF will continue to provide legal and fundraising consulting to the defendants in this case, as they have since becoming aware of the lawsuit.
The group of 11 defendants has put together a statement for this announcement:
"As artists, writers, art educators, comics critics, and small independent publishers, many of whom rely on freelance work to pay our bills, a lawsuit like this is going to put an enormous financial strain on all of us. Simply put, we can't afford to fight this without help. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our community, and are especially grateful for the generosity of SPX to provide us with financial assistance. We also appreciate efforts by the CBLDF and other institutions and individuals who have provided additional fundraising support and legal advice."
"For many years, SPX has quietly extended financial support to cartoonists in need, but there is no being quiet about this case," said Warren Bernard, Executive Director of the Small Press Expo. "Our community must come together in support of its members who are facing unprecedented challenges—and to defend the kind of community we wish to be. From the very beginning, our two organizations agreed that we must do whatever we can to help."
"We came together on a solution that makes the best use of the strengths of each of our organizations to support the members of our community in fighting this lawsuit. The SPX special fund will help by providing immediate cash, a structure for raising more money if required, and continuing access to experts that will help those in need," said Christina Merkler, President, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
Bleeding Cool also noted the looming announcement of Merkler's role, with Johnston writing:
Also, expect Christina Merkler of online comic book store DCBS (Discount Comic Book Services) to be announced the new CBLDF board president, replacing the long-serving Larry Marder, after being voted in during San Diego Comic-Con. She may have something to say on this matter as well.
And indeed, moments before the SPX release went out, another release announced Merkler as new president.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Announces Christina Merkler as New President
August 30, 2018) The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the industry's voice for free speech advocacy and education, is proud to announce that Christina Merkler has been named President of the CBLDF by unanimous vote of its board of directors. Merkler is the co-founder of Discount Comic Book Service, one of the nation's largest comic book retail companies. She joins new board officers Vice President Chris Powell, VP – Retailer Services at Diamond Comics Distributors; Treasurer Ted Adams, Founder of IDW; and longtime CBLDF Secretary Dale Cendali, Partner at Kirkland & Ellis.
"There's never been a more important time to protect the First Amendment rights of the comic book community," said Merkler. "As President, I look forward to working closely with the CBLDF board and the staff to continue the organization's important work in supporting comic book retailers, creators, educators and librarians whose First Amendment rights are being challenged."
For more than thirty years, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has protected the First Amendment rights of comics field and developed powerful education efforts in the service of the community. CBLDF has defended a wide range of cases in 2018, most recently, the Fund successfully protected the graphic novel Fun Home in New Jersey.
Earlier this year, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and National Coalition Against Censorship released Be Heard!, a free comic book by cartoonist Kai Texel to help protect students' rights by helping kids assert their rights to speech, protest, assembly and petition, and providing resources to get more help. The organization recently announced a line of high profile variant covers with leading comic book publisher, Image Comics.
CBLDF's Board of Directors oversees CBLDF's mission protecting, preserving, and promoting the freedom to read comics. CBLDF's at-large directors are Jeff Abraham, Jennifer L. Holm, Reginald Hudlin, Katherine Keller, Paul Levitz, and Gene Luen Yang. Christina Merkler follows longtime CBLDF President Larry Marder, who retired from the board at San Diego Comic Con, along with Vice-President Milton Griepp, and board member Jeff Smith.
Busy day in comic book legal defense, it seems.