Last week was Banned Books Week, and this year the focus was squarely on comic books and graphic novels. Charles Brownstein, Executive Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, tells The Guardian:
Comics are one of the most commonly attacked kinds of books. They’re uniquely vulnerable to challenges because of the medium’s visual nature and because comics still carry a stigma of being 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.
This stigma Brownstein mentions is reflected on the list of the top 10 challenged titles of 2013; both the #1 and #10 spots are occupied by graphic novels.
The holder of the #1 spot is the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, which also occupied the top spot in 2012. Since I did a write-up of that series last year (see my blog post on that topic here) I decided to focus today’s post on the 10th book on the list, Jeff Smith’s award-winning series Bone.
Series author and illustrator Jeff Smith first began drawing the characters that would populate the pages of Bone when he was five years old. He began self-publishing the series in 1991 under his own company label, Cartoon Books, although eventually by 1995 the series was picked up by Image comics. Originally serialized in 55 irregularly released issues from 1991 to 2004, the story is now available across nine volumes (in addition to a number of spin-offs). The series is critically acclaimed and has won numerous awards (winning the Eisner and Harvey awards multiple times), which makes its position of #10 on the list of most challenged books quite puzzling. According to the American Library Association, the book was challenged by critics for three main reasons: political viewpoint, racism, and violence. Smith responds to the charges in an NPR article on the topic:
Smith doesn’t understand how anyone could find his books racist. As for political viewpoint, he says books should reflect a certain moral sensibility. And violence? Well, he says, it is a comic book.
And that’s it for this year’s banned books week wrap-up. To conclude, I’d like to share this image of three of my favorite entertainers (parody musician “Weird” Al Yankovic, and fantasy authors Neil Gaiman and George R. R. Martin) showing their support for banned (comic) books. Until next year!