22 Banned and Challenged Comics

September 22, 2014
By

Amazing Spider-Man: Revelations by J. Michael Straczynski, John Romita, Jr., and Scott Hanna

According to one parent, Amazing Spider-Man: Revelations by J. Michael Straczynski, John Romita, Jr., and Scott Hanna catered to the prurient interest of her 6-year-old son, so she went straight to a local ABC affiliate to make her concerns known. Fortunately, level heads — and a strong library selection and challenge review policy — prevailed and the book remains in the library catalog.  More…

Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa

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Keiji Nakazawa’s internationally renowned manga Barefoot Gen, which depicts wartime atrocities from the perspective of the seven-year-old protagonist, has fallen victim to several challenges in its home country of Japan. It was temporarily banned in two cities — Matsue and Izumisano — but authorities quickly backpedaled on the bans after they gained international attention. More…

Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley

Details on the challenge to Frank Miller’s sequel to The Dark Knight Returns, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, are scant, but a patron in the Stark County District Library challenged the book for being unsuited to age group. Fortunately, the library retained the book and now holds two copies, which are shelved in the Teen section. More…

Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Boland

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Alan Moore holds the informal title of America’s most challenged for good reason — his willingness to tackle difficult topics and to deconstruct the superhero genre means he has generated some of the most acclaimed comics in history. With acclaim, often comes complaints: In 2013, a parent filed a complaint over Batman: The Killing Joke, claiming the book “advocates rape and violence.” Three out of five library board members were present at the meeting where the challenge was considered, and they voted unanimously to retain The Killing Joke on shelves. More…

Blankets by Craig Thompson

According to a library patron in Marshall, Missouri, some graphic novels are so obscene they’ll turn the local library into a porn shop. Unfortunately, the library didn’t have a materials selection policy in place, so they made the egregious decision to remove the book from shelves pending review. Once the library established a selection policy, the book was restored to circulation, but the case serves as evidence for why it’s important to have a policy in place before a challenge happens. More…

Bone by Jeff Smith

Who would have thought a book series that focuses on three adorable bald white cartoon characters could draw both the praise of millions and the ire of enough would-be censors that it would end up on ALA’s list of most challenged books? It happened just this year, when Bone landed the number ten spot on the 2013 list for “political viewpoint, racism, violence.” More…

Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama

You can’t win them all: In 2009, the Dragon Ball graphic novel series by Akira Toriyama was removed from all public school media centers in Wicomico County, MD because the books depict violence and contain nudity. Apparently, tiny cartoon penises that bear little resemblance to the real thing are enough to lead to the removal of a series inspired by traditional Chinese storytelling and myths that embodies themes of friendship, rivalry, victory, and loss. More…

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

As with many critically-acclaimed books — particularly graphic novels — Fun Home frequently draws the attention of would-be censors. Like Blankets, it was targeted in Marshall, Missouri, for obscenity and attracting an unsavory element to local libraries. In 2013-2014, the book became the target of an entire state legislature. The South Carolina Senate debated punitive budget cuts against the College of Charleston because it incorporated Fun Home into a voluntary summer reading program for incoming freshman. Legislators finally came up with a “compromise”: Instead of cutting the funds, the legislature proposed a budget provision that doesn’t cut funding but — in a an act of irony so classic that it should be included in the dictionary — the provision reallocated the funds to books that teach about the Constitution. More…

Ice Haven by Daniel Clowes

In a particularly tragic case, a Connecticut high school teacher was forced to resign from his job after a parent filed both a formal and a police complaint against him for lending a high school freshman English student a copy of Daniel Clowes’s Eightball #22, which was later published as the graphic novel Ice Haven. Clowes’ book contains profanity, course language, and brief non-sexual nudity. The parents who filed the complaint called the comic pornographic and insinuated a potential predatory motive to local media. Ultimately, no criminal charges were brought against the teacher, but his career was left in a shambles. More…

In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

In the Night Kitchen is technically a children’s book, but it was inspired by a beloved comics strip. Maurice Sendak isn’t pulling any punches in his children’s books, which may explain why they’re universally loved. Almost universally, anyway. There are a few people who think it’s a better idea to censor or even burn some of Sendak’s popular titles. In the Night Kitchen, an award-winning book inspired by Windsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland, features a young boy’s dream journey through a baker’s kitchen. The book upset some librarians and adults because its young protagonist, Mickey, was depicted in the nude. Many librarians censored the book by painting diapers over the boy’s genitals. More…

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill

In 2009, two employees of the Jessamine County Public Library in Kentucky took it upon themselves to remove Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier from circulation. Sharon Cook, a full-time Library Assistant who objected to sex scenes in the book, initially followed the library’s established challenge procedure, but the review committee found that the book was properly shelved. In response, Cook checked the book out of the library and continued to renew it for about a year, making it unavailable to members of the public. When a patron hold eventually prevented Cook from renewing the book, she used her staff privileges to determine that the requester was an 11-year-old girl. At that time Cook enlisted part-time employee Beth Boisvert, who cancelled the hold so the patron would not receive the book. So, who won in this battle between two library employees and a book? The book! Cook and Boisvert were both fired for their machinations. More…

Maus by Art Spiegelman

Even books that win the Pulitzer Prize aren’t safe from censors. Art Spiegelman’s acclaimed graphic novel Maus was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in the Special Awards and Citations – Letters category in 1992, but that didn’t keep a patron in Pasadena, California, from filing a complaint for being “anti-ethnic” and “unsuitable for younger readers.” The librarian kept the book on shelves.  More…

Neonomicon by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows

All the pieces were in place to ensure that Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Bram Stoker Award-winning series Neonomicon was kept on shelves in Greenville, South Carolina: the book was properly shelved in the adult section of the library, it had the support of CBLDF and other advocates, and a review committee recommended the book be retained. Unfortunately, the library’s executive director, Beverly James, had other ideas: She unilaterally removed the book from the library collection. More…

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

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A worlwide bestseller is safe from censors, right? Not so Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical account of growing up in Iran, Persepolis, which was nearly banned by Chicago Public Schools. The book was challenged for violent content, but as Chicago students themselves pointed out, the few panels in Persepolis depicting torture techniques are no more graphic than images encountered while studying other true events such as the Holocaust or slavery. The book remains in libraries and was approved for use in grade 11 classrooms. It was removed from grade 7 classrooms, and reviewed for use in grade 8 – 10 classrooms. The book is listed in CPS’s 2013-14 Literacy Content Framework only for grade 11 students, which likely means it was not approved for use in grade 8 – 10 classrooms. Just last weekPersepolis was challenged again, this time in Oregon, but the results of that challenge are still pending. More…

Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon

Even a cast of animals isn’t safe from being challenged for sexual content. Brian K. Vaughan and Nico Henrichon’s Pride of Baghdad is a fictionalized account 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 and has faced challenges over sexual content. To date, the challenges have not been successful. More…

Sandman by Neil Gaiman and various artists

Sometimes, library challenges are all about location, location, location. Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman series chronicles the misadventures, struggles, and complex relationships among seven mystical siblings. The series earned nine Eisner awards and three Harvey awards, and it was the first graphic novel to win a World Fantasy Award, when it was named Best Short Story in 1991. Despite its many accolades, The Sandman was listed as one of the top banned and challenged graphic novels in 2010. Most often, opposition to the series has arisen when it has been shelved in the young adult section of the library. More…

SideScrollers by Matthew Loux

Reading lists aren’t any more safe from censors than library shelves and classrooms are. The video game-themed graphic novel Sidescrollers by Matthew Loux was removed as an option on a Connecticut school district’s ninth grade summer reading list after a parent complained of profanity and sexual references in the book. The Enfield, Connecticut, Board of Education also changed its policy so that a board committee must approve the reading lists drawn up by schools. More…

Stuck in the Middle, edited by Ariel Schrag

Some victories are qualified. In late 2011, CBLDF joined the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom in writing a letter to the superintendent of the Dixfield, Maine, school system in order to prevent the removal of the anthology Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics from an Unpleasant Age from library shelves. Ultimately, the school board voted to leave the book on library shelves with the caveat the students must have parental permission to check out the book. More…

Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse

Books that contain LGBTQ themes are among the most challenged titles in libraries. Howard Cruse’s groundbreaking graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby was challenged in the Montgomery County Memorial Library System along with 15 other young adult books with gay positive themes by the Library Patrons of Texas. The book was retained, but it was reclassified from Young Adult to Adult. More…

Tank Girl by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett

Post-apocalyptic Australia isn’t just home to fictional characters played by Mel Gibson; it’s also home to cult favorite — and frequent censorship target — Tank Girl. The Tank Girl books are meant to entertain an adult audience, frequently depicting violence, flatulence, vomiting, sex, and drug use. In 2009, the book was challenged at the Hammond Public Library in Hammond, Indiana, for the depiction of nudity and violence. The library chose to retain the book, and it remains on shelves today.. More…

The Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa

When the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom released their list of the Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2011, the second-most challenged book on that list was The Color of Earth, the first book of a critically-acclaimed Korean manwha, or comic book, series. Unfortunately, few details about the challenges that put the series on ALA’s list are available. Like many books that focus on coming-of-age, it was challenged for sexual content. Fortunately, the series continues to get the support of librarians and educators around the world. More…

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen series likely needs little introduction. 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 Watchmen in school library collections has been challenged by parents at least twice, once unsuccessfully. The outcome of the second challenge is unknown, but the series is generally challenged for being unsuited to age group due to sexual content and nudity. More…

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