The CBLDF has issued a press released detailing the victory in the Gordon Lee case. This was the case in which a comic book store in Rome, Georgia, as part of a 2004 Halloween promotion, was handing out free comics left over from that year’s Free Comic Book Day. Among over 2,000 comics, they accidentally included a copy of Alternative Comics #2, which included a story about Picasso which included him running around his studio in the nude. And they accidentally gave it to a kid. The parents wouldn’t accept an apology, and pressed charges instead. The DA has been determined to make an example out of him, pushing grossly overinflated charges including felonies that would have given him prison time. 3½ years, 3 trial dates, a mistrial for prosecutorial misconduct, and $100,000 in defense costs later, the Rome DA finally agreed to drop the case in exchange for a written letter of apology — which is exactly what the store owner had offered in the first place.
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You might think nothing of going down to the store and picking up a comic book, but there are people out there who want to limit your choices to books aimed at 10-year-olds. (Admittedly, there aren’t enough books aimed at 10-year-olds right now, but that’s another rant). Imagine if all movies were G-rated. Because, after all, everyone knows, movies are just for kids, right?
There was a time when all comics had to be approved by the Comics Code Authority, because in the 1950s, comics were the trendy scapegoat for juvenile delinquency (much as video games are often blamed today). While writers and artists of the day managed to produce classics within those constraints, one can only imagine what the world missed out on that it wouldn’t see until publishers began to risk non-code books in the 1980s. The now-classic Alan Moore run on Swamp Thing, for instance, or Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, could never have been produced under the limits of the Comics Code, even under its current incarnation. (Back to movies briefly: did you know that It’s a Wonderful Life broke the rules of the motion picture code? Mr. Potter may have failed to take over the Savings and Loan, but he was never punished for his misdeeds — a requirement under the film codes of the time!)
Even now, there are people who want to keep everything “safe” and innocuous — for everyone, adults as well as kids. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is dedicated to protecting freedom of expression in comics from this sort of attack. They’ve defended writers, artists, even retailers over the past 15 years.
So if you like books like Fables or Powers, or books like 100 Bullets or Y, The Last Man — check out the CBLDF. Read what they do, and why. Consider joining, or making a donation, or just buying a T-shirt. And if you’re going to San Diego for Comic-Con International this weekend, drop by their booth and see what’s going on.