The city of Warsaw, Poland has withdrawn a three-year grant supporting an annual comics festival after nationalist groups complained about the content of a comic that was distributed during the event earlier this month. The book Polska mistrzem Polski (Polish Champion of Poland) compiles strips that have previously run in Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper and often mock nationalists as drunken and violent louts.
The comics festival is held annually in conjunction with the larger Warsaw Book Fair, both supported by a mix of private and public funding. This year, Warsaw’s city government disbursed the first part of a three-year grant specifically for the comics event, which ultimately would have received a total of 170,000 zlotys (about $45,640) by 2019.
The compilation of Polska mistrzem Polski strips by Tomasz Leśniak and Rafał Skarżycki was given away for free at the booth of publisher Timof Comics during the festival in mid-May. The city apparently had not requested to review the content of any books prior to the event, but under pressure from nationalist groups in the ensuing days it finally issued a statement disavowing the book on May 25. The statement added that the comics festival will no longer receive the rest of the city’s grant over the next two years.
Apart from a few vulgarities used in the book, nationalists particularly objected to a panel showing skinheads wearing the Kotwica symbol and raising a toast “to the fallen”–their comrades who are already passed out drunk. The Kotwica, a stylized anchor-like combination of the letters P and W, originated as the symbol of the Polish Underground during Nazi occupation but in recent years has increasingly been appropriated by rightwing anti-immigrant groups.
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.