Legally Speaking -- Decoder Ring

Against the Grain, Nov 2017

Jerry Spiller, Bruce Strauch, Bryan M. Carson, Jack Montgomery

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Legally Speaking -- Decoder Ring

Legally Speaking -- Decoder Ring Jerry Spiller Art Institute of Charleston 0 1 0 1 Bruce Strauch Th e Citadel 0 1 0 1 Bryan M. Carson 0 1 0 Jack Montgomery Western Kentucky University , USA 1 Western Kentucky University , USA Follow this and additional works at: Part of the Library and Information Science Commons - 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 educational events. 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 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 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 as well.7 Gomez has also uploaded Working with Libraries! A Handbook for Comics Creators to 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 Board member. 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 volumes.11 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:// 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 , ebetsygomez/docs/cbldf_bbwhb_final. 4. Betsy Gomez , “ Back to School with Comic Books: The CBLDF Banned Books Week Handbook , ” accessed Sept 13 , 2014 , 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 , 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 , 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 , -files/cbldf-case-files/handley/ . Against the Grain / November 2014

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Jerry Spiller, Bruce Strauch, Bryan M. Carson, Jack Montgomery. Legally Speaking -- Decoder Ring, Against the Grain, 2017,