It’s not news that comic books, or at least stories and characters that were born in that medium, have become more and more visible over the past several years. Even if you’ve never darkened the door of your local comic book shop (which you should, even if — especially if — you don’t think you’d be interested), you’re doubtlessly at least somewhat familiar with the exploits of Scott Pilgrim, Groot, or Enid & Rebecca. But even with their renewed cultural currency, comics are not without their detractors. In recognition of this, the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week 2014 is focusing on comic books and graphic novels which have have been challenged in our school and public libraries.
The Guardian published an interview on Friday with acclaimed comic book writer and artist Jeff Smith in which he discusses his views on challenges to library collections and his feelings about his best-known work, Bone, showing up on this year’s list of the most challenged titles:
“Comics are now part of the literary scene, part of the discussion, and it shines a spotlight on these kinds of attacks,” he said. “That doesn’t mean the people who want to ban these books are malicious; in fact just the opposite. They have a concern which to them is legitimate. But that isn’t the point. The point is that they are trying to take away someone else’s ability to choose what they want to read, and you can’t do that.”
In concert with the ALA, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) has published a free Banned Books Week Handbook focusing on the unique vulnerability of their favorite kind of book to well-meaning but misinformed censors, in which they explain why comics and graphic novels are popular targets:
Why are comics banned?
Comics face challenges for the same reasons as any other books. Reasons books are frequently challenged include “adult content, “language,” “sex / nudity,” or “inappropriate for age group.” Comics are uniquely vulnerable to challenges because of the medium’s visual nature and because comics still carry the stigma of low-value speech. Some challenges are brought against comics because a single page or panel can be taken out of context, while others come under attack because of the mistaken notion that all comics are for children.
Your RRHS Library carries copies of many banned books, including Bone, Fun House, Blankets, The Killing Joke and other challenged graphic novels, including more from this list from Entertainment Weekly of all-time comic book greats which have been subject to challenges. Come on in and read something dangerous.