Legally Speaking -- Decoder Ring
Legally Speaking -- Decoder Ring
Jerry Spiller Art Institute of Charleston 0 1
Bruce Strauch Th e Citadel 0 1
Bryan M. Carson 0 1
0 Jack Montgomery Western Kentucky University , USA
1 Western Kentucky University , USA
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Legally Speaking — Decoder Ring
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Joins Forces with Libraries
Column Editor: Jerry Spiller (Art Institute of Charleston) <>
T(CBLDF) is on the front lines of fighting
he Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
for the First Amendment. The comics
advocacy and anti-censorship group has
recently been involved in efforts to restore
John Green’s Paper Towns to a reading list in
Florida,1 urging the South Carolina legislature
to reconsider budget cuts over last year’s choice
of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home,2 and
participating in numerous auctions, fundraisers, and
CBLDF has been gearing up programs for
the fall with its “Back to School with Comic
Books” series. Just in time for the start of the
school year and Banned Book Week events
in late September, the group’s Betsy Gomez
announced the release of the CBLDF Banned
Books Week Handbook.3 This resource for
libraries, educators, and retailers is a free
download hosted on issuu.com and provides
“the scoop about banned comics, how to
report and fight censorship, and how to make
a celebration of Banned Books Week in your
community.”4 In addition to the free handbook
downloads, you can purchase Banned Book
Week kits with print versions of the handbook
plus stickers and buttons.
The CBLDF also provides some wonderful
online discussion guides focused on
frequently challenged comics, including Fun Home,
Batman: The Killing Joke, Watchmen, Maus,
Persepolis, and Pride of Baghdad. These
materials are an invaluable resource for librarians
working on classes and events dealing with
censorship (or simply for comics or general
media-literacy programming). Each guide
contains a synopsis, a breakdown
of the work’s major themes, the
reasons it is often challenged,
suggested age ranges for readers, and
discussion questions and activities.
The guides are available as free PDF
downloads from cbldf.org.5 They
look like they’ll be useful regardless
of the time of year. The Raising a
Reader guide,6 aimed at very young
readers and timed for release with
Free Comic Book Day in May,
looks like a boon for early
primary school and public libraries
throughout the calendar.
This is well-coordinated
bunch of materials from Gomez
and the CBLDF crew. Gomez
also furthered the collaboration
by inviting libraries to contact
her with their planned activities, and
encouraged planners to register their events with the
ALA for inclusion on BannedBookWeek.org
Gomez has also uploaded Working with
Libraries! A Handbook for Comics Creators
to issuu.com.8 The guide is aimed at helping
comic writers and artists understand library
programs, events, and collection development
practices. The work features an introduction
by Harvey Award winner Jeff Smith, creator
of Bone from Scholastic and himself a CBLDF
In August CBLDF announced the addition
of UNLV Curriculum Materials librarian
Katherine Keller to its Board of Directors.
In addition to her prominent librarian role
doing outreach and instruction in Las Vegas,
Keller is the co-founder of Sequential Tart, a
long-running Webzine focusing on women’s
issues in comics and pop culture. Gomez
recently relayed Keller’s feelings on her new
position on the CBLDF site: “Given the
experience and expertise of the current Board, I
am both humbled and excited about being able
to bring what I know about comics retailing,
libraries, and education to such a group.”9 It
would be easy to think Keller’s experience
with organizing outreach programs also had
something to do with the group’s well-timed
efforts at the beginning of the academic year.
Keller was involved in fundraising for
CBLDF’s support of comics retailer Gordon
Lee against charges of distributing harmful
materials to minors in 2007 and of manga
reader Christopher Handley’s prosecution
for possession of objectionable
materials in 2009. Lee’s charges
were dropped but he died after
having a series of strokes in
2013.10 Handley was pressured
into a guilty plea and served six
months in prison, followed by
years of supervised release and
probation, due to his possession
of seven particular books in a
broad collection of manga that
numbered in the thousands of
F u l l d i s c l o s u r e : I ’ m a
card-carrying member of the
CBLDF and proudly wear my
“I Read Banned Comics”
membership t-shirt to any event I can.
Download those guides and
use them year round.
1. Maren Wil liams, “CBLDF Joins Call to Restore Paper Towns in Pasco County, ” CBLDF News Blog, March 18 , 2014 , accessed Sept 14, 2014 http://cbldf. org/ 2014 /07/cbldf-joins -call-to-restore-paper-towns-in-pasco-county/.
2. Betsy Gomez , “ CBLDF Joins Coalition Urging SC Senate to Restore Funding to Universities,” CBLDF News Blog , March 18 , 2014 , accessed Sept 14, 2014 , http:// cbldf.org/ 2014 /03/cbldf-joins -coalition-urging-sc-to-restore-funding-to-universities/.
3. Comic Book Legal Defense Fund , “CBLDF Banned Books Handbook,” accessed Sept 14 , 2014 , http://issuu.com/ ebetsygomez/docs/cbldf_bbwhb_final.
4. Betsy Gomez , “ Back to School with Comic Books: The CBLDF Banned Books Week Handbook , ” accessed Sept 13 , 2014 , http://cbldf.org/ 2014 /09/back-to -schoolwith-comic-books-the-cbldf-banned-booksweek-handbook/.
5. Betsy Gomez , “ Back to School with Comic Books: CBLDF Discussion Guides , ” accessed Sept 13 , 2014 , http://cbldf. org/ 2014 /09/back-to -school-with-comicbooks-cbldf-discussion-guides/.
6. Meryl Jaffee , “ Raising a Reader. How Comics & Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids Love to Read,” accessed Sept 14 , 2014 , http://issuu.com/ebetsygomez/docs/ cbldf_raising _a_reader_comic_book_f.
7. Gomez, “ Back to School with Comic Books: The CBLDF Banned Books Week Handbook .”
8. Comic Book Legal Defense Fund , “ Working with Libraries! A Handbook for Comics Creators ,” accessed Sept 14, http://issuu. com/ebetsygomez/docs/cbldf_libraryhandbook_interior_fina.
9. Betsy Gomez , “ Library Professional and Sequential Tart Founding Member Katherine Keller Joins CBLDF Board of Directors,” CBLDF News Blog , Aug 18 , 2014 , accessed Aug 19, 2014 , http://cbldf.org/ 2014 /08/ library -professional-and-sequential-tartfounding-member-katherine-keller-joinscbldf-board-of-directors/.
10. Charles Brownstein , “RIP, Gordon Lee , ” CBLDF News Blog, January 14 , 2013 , accessed Sept 14, 2014 , http://cbldf. org/ 2013 /01/rip-gordon-lee/.
11. Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, “CBLDF Case Files - U.S. v. Handley,” accessed Sept 14 , 2014 , http://cbldf.org/aboutus/case -files/cbldf-case-files/handley/ . Against the Grain / November 2014