Rebel of the Week: The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

February 15th, 2012

Not Rebels: Pictured above are outraged Americans holding a good old-fashioned book burning in 1948-- comic book burning that is.

2012 marks the 25th year of the CBLDF– the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund– and this week we’re going to help them celebrate their 25th birthday by honoring them as our Rebel of the Week! A quarter of a century fighting for free speech and the First Amendment is something to respect. As I’m writing this I can’t help but suspect that 25 years ago was a really good time for the birth of rebels and rebel organizations. Our Marketing Manager, Megan Duffield just turned 25 and I’m due for the quarter of a century birthday myself in just a few days while promoting Silver Circle at MegaCon!

So while two rebel babies spent the late eighties dreaming of the day they would get out of the cradle and learn to walk, talk, and promote independent, political art, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund was just getting started in its fight to protect freedom of speech. Oh you didn’t know that comic books and their distributors have had to struggle against censorship and sanctimonious moral hysteria every step of the way? Tell that to a comic book enthusiast and they’ll set you straight. It’s been a long, hard fight against a deep, almost visceral fear of and hatred for this powerful and inspiring medium…

ComicBookResources.com explains:

Since 1986 comics have faced library challenges, bannings, self-censorship, and media vilification. Even as recently as January 2012, local news reports banged the drum that dangerous and obscene illustrated fiction could fall into our children’s hands and warp their minds forever. We are still dealing with the same ludicrous trends and accusations that started in the 1940s and peaked in the 1950s, when Senate hearings almost destroyed the comics industry after a best-selling book of pop psychology laid a nations’ fears of juvenile delinquency out, putting comics entirely at fault.

It’s easy to assume that things will never be that bad again, but as of this writing, a fan is awaiting trial to see whether or not he will go to prison for the comics he owned. In many ways, things are worse than ever. The biases and the witch hunts still remain, but the penalties can be far, far worse.

The fact is that in 2012 we are still fighting for Free Speech in comics. The consequences for obscenity charges range from fines to public outrage and character assassination to jail time here in the U.S. and even in a foreign country. This is terrifying. This should not be a problem that anyone has to face just because they buy, sell, own, create, or distribute comics. This art form does not enjoy the same freedoms of expression as film, music, or prose, and this should infuriate everyone who loves comics.

So yeah, pretty bad. They weren’t really exaggerating with their depiction of the dad in the intro to CREEPSHOW. (Warning: That video at the link might be slightly NSFW due to a couple “S” words and a “GD” or two.) (And also– anyone else feel like that’s how Bill O’Reilly would act if he found a comic book in his kid’s room? Okay, that’s enough parenthetical digressions.)

So what all has the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund done to fight censorship and earn this week’s rebel accolades? I’m glad you asked.

  • CBLDF was quoted in a Supreme Court opinion knocking out an unconstitutional censorship law. In BROWN v. EMA, an amicus brief filed by the CBLDF and written by General Counsel Robert Corn-Revere was quoted in the majority opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia. Comparing government mandated videogame labels to the Comics Scare of the 1950s, the history of censorship in comics was referenced as a mistake — a mistake that should not be repeated in other areas of pop culture.
  • CBLDF sponsored Banned Books Week. Aside from membership in the Media Coalition, the CBLDF expanded its active presence in the wider Free Expression community. It sponsored Banned Books Week, spoke about comics censorship at several library events, and exhibited at the American Library Association meeting, taking its mission to librarians, both educational and public.
  • CBLDF created an industry-wide coalition to support free speech. Working with Diamond Comic Distributors, its Retail Membership program saw the highest numbers since its inception this year. This means that there are more stores than ever participating in the protection of the comic medium, all of them part of a coalition that defends the rights of fans and creators. As the retail community grows tighter and more cohesive, with initiatives like Free Comic Book Day and growing membership in ComicsPRO, they are also seeing greater bonds with their retail partners.

As we move into our final stages of production on an independent, animated film with an economic and political message (we’re also using the comic book medium to tell our film’s story), the fight to protect the comic book medium is one dear to our hearts, and we salute the fine rebels at The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund for everything they’ve done to protect our Constitution and our comics!

And don’t forget to visit our official website to learn more about the Silver Circle Movie:http://SilverCircleMovie.com


About the Author: Wes

Wesley Messamore, 24, is an independent journalist and political activist who believes in the Founding Father's vision of a free, enlightened, and moral America. He also blogs at HumbleLibertarian.com