Banned Books Week: Graphic Novels Spotlight

If you have visited either campus library, you can tell how much we enjoy graphic novels at the Tyler libraries.  In addition to the frequently banned/challenged books that we have on display, you should also visit our graphic novel display to see what else we can celebrate during Banned Books Week!  If you can’t make it by the library to see what we have to offer, the following list highlights some of the most frequently challenged or banned graphic works and this history of their bans and challenges:

Pride of Baghdad

Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon

Reasons for being banned/challenged:

Brian K. Vaughan is the writer behind several award-winning series, including Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, Saga, and more. In 2006, he teamed with Nico Henrichon to create Pride of Baghdad, a graphic novel that follows a pride of lions that escapes from a Baghdad zoo after an American bombing as they struggle to survive on the bombed-out streets of the city. The tale is based loosely on true events.

Despite making both ALA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten in 2007 and Booklist Editors’ Choice: Adult Books for Young Adults as well as featuring non-human main characters, Pride of Baghdad is frequently challenged for alleged sexually explicit content. (CBLDF.org, 2016)

Blankets

Blankets by Craig Thompson

Reasons for being banned/challenged:

In 2006, Craig Thompson’s celebrated graphic novel, Blankets, was challenged in the Marshall, Missouri Public Library.

Blankets is the semiautobiographical story of Thompson’s upbringing in a religious family, his first love, and how he came to terms with his religious beliefs. The primary narrative in the book describes main character Craig’s relationship with Raina, a young woman he meets at a Christian youth camp. We get glimpses into Craig’s childhood and his relationship with his younger brother through flashbacks, as he wrestles with his views of religion and his relationship with God.

At the time of the challenge, the Marshall Public Library did not have an established materials selection policy, which would have laid out guidelines as to what types of items the library should buy. The library board decided to draft such a policy, but also opted to remove the two books from circulation during the development process. After several months, the board ultimately approved a policy, which statedin part that the library would buy materials based on contemporary or social significance, critical acclaim, patron requests or popular demand, and “timeliness and/or significance of subject matter.”

Louise Mills, a resident of Marshall, MO, filed a request with the Marshall Public Library Board of Trustees to have Blankets removed from the shelves because of the allegedly obscene illustrations. She likened the illustrations to pornography and was concerned that the comic art would attract children who would subsequently see the images she alleged were pornographic. Mills also feared that the library would be frequented by the same people who go to porn shops. (CBLDF.org, 2016)

Tank GirlTank Girl by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett

Reasons for being banned/challenged:

Tank Girl, the character created by writer Alan Martin and artist Jamie Hewlett, first saw print as a comic strip in 1988. The British series, originally set in post-apocalyptic Australia, follows the adventures of Tank Girl, her mutant kangaroo boyfriend Booga, and a varied cast of secondary heroes and villains. The series has also been drawn by Ashley Wood, Rufus Dayglo, Philip Bond, and Jim Mahfood, among others

The Tank Girl books embrace the tropes of punk culture, from Tank Girl’s randomly shaved and multi-colored hair to her disdain for authority. The series frequently employs psychedelic imagery, disjointed storytelling, and surrealism. The irreverent and black humor of the series and its depiction of a strong central female character have garnered the series a devoted fanbase.

The Tank Girl books are meant to entertain an adult audience, frequently depicting violence, flatulence, vomiting, sex, and drug use. For this reason, the book has been challenged in libraries. In 2009, the book was challenged at the Hammond Public Library in Hammond, Indiana. A library patron asked that the book be removed for the depiction of nudity and violence. The library chose to retain the book, and it remains  on shelves today.(CBLDF.org, 2016)

Watchmen

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Reasons for being banned/challenged:

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen series likely needs little introduction to CBLDF blog readers. The alternate history in which a group of retired crimefighters investigate and attempt to stop a plot to murder them has been praised by critics and fans alike since its 1986 debut. It received a Hugo Award in 1988 and was instrumental in garnering more respect and shelf space for comics and graphic novels in libraries and mainstream bookstores.

The inclusion of the compiled Watchmen in school library collections has been challenged by parents at least twice, according to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. There is no media coverage of these challenges to be found online, but OIF helpfully provided us with a few more details from their database. The first Watchmen complaint, at a high school in Harrisonburg, Virginia, was reported in October of 2001. OIF removes specific identifying details from the information it releases to the public, but the high school library in Harrisonburg holds a copy of the book, so it appears the challenge was unsuccessful. The second challenge, from May of 2004, took place at a school serving grades 6-12 in Florida, but the city and outcome are unknown. (CBLDF.org, 2016)

The Children of Palomar

The Children of Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez

Reasons for being banned/challenged:

In early 2015, the critically acclaimed comic collection Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez was called “child porn” by the mother of a high school student in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Initially, unbiased details are difficult to come by because of biased reporting from a local news station, which labeled the book “sexual, graphic, and not suitable for children.”

When Catrenna Lopez found objectionable material in Palomar after her 14-year-old son checked it out of the Rio Rancho High School library, she didn’t simply file a challenge with the school — she took her objections to the local media. A quick Google search would have turned up the accolades for the book and its literary value, but local news outlet KOAT didn’t comes close to a fair an accurate report, declaring that “we can’t show you any of the images because they’re too sexual and very graphic” and quoting Lopez’s claims that she found “child pornography pictures and child abuse pictures.” Of further concern were indications in the KOAT report that unnamed individuals in the school administration support Lopez’s claims that the book is “clearly inappropriate.”

Needless to say, Palomar is not actually a collection of child porn — Publishers Weekly called it “a superb introduction to the work of an extraordinary, eccentric and very literary cartoonist” and it often draws comparisons to the magic realism of novelists such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The book collects Hernandez’s “Heartbreak Soup” stories, which originally appeared in the Love and Rockets series, a collaboration with his brothers Jaime and Mario. Gilbert Hernandez’s stories focus on the interconnected lives of characters from one family in the fictional South American town of Palomar.

CBLDF took immediate action to help defend the book, taking the lead with frequent partners Kids’ Right to Read Project in sending a letter to Superintendent V. Sue Cleveland to protest the allegations against Palomar. The letter argued that one parent’s objections cannot be allowed to determine the rights of other students to enjoy Palomar or any other literary work. And the letter urged the school district to adhere to its own guidelines, which state that reviews to challenged materials be treated “objectively, unemotionally, and as a routine matter.” The Rio Rancho review committee agreed. By a 5-3 vote, the committee voted to retain the book. Although Palomar is slated toreturn to shelves before the 2015-2016 school year, however, someone within the district has imposed a requirement for students under 18 to have parental permission to access it.

Additionally, emails released via FOIA request to local radio station KUNM show that RRPS initially did not follow the challenge policy, and the book’s record was in fact deleted from the computerized library catalog in response to the first verbal complaint from Lopez. It was only after the district received national scrutiny regarding the book challenge that an administrator informed employees the policy would be followed and a review committee assembled. Even after that committee recommended that the book be restored to shelves, an email exchangebetween the school’s principal and vice principal showed that both harbored some hope that the superintendent would still overturn that decision. (CBLDF.org, 2016)

 

All the histories/details of the listed books can be found at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s website: http://cbldf.org/banned-comic/banned-challenged-comics/

You can find more banned and challenged graphic novels on display at the Midlothian library or visit last year’s Banned Books Week post, Celebrating Banned Graphic Novels.

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