Why Do Comics Get Challenged?

September 26, 2017
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Every year, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) receives reports of book challenges from around the country–that is, a request from an individual or group for a book to be restricted or removed from a library or classroom. Over the years OIF has tracked the reasons cited for these challenges, and comics are challenged for many of the same reasons as prose novels do.

A few years back, Tim Leong distilled the data regarding comics and graphic novels into the infographic below! Click on the image to view it full-size, and read on for more information on each of the categories and challenged books. You can also buy a poster of Leong’s infographic in the Rewards Zone.

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Offensive Language

One of the most common reasons for challenges–probably because it’s such a low threshold. Just a few vulgarities can be enough for some people to want a book removed!

Unsuited to Age Group

Parents sometimes challenge a book they feel is inappropriate for their child or teen, even though it may be just right for someone else.

Obscene Images

This is a major reason why comics tend to be popular targets! Of course, obscenity is defined in law and these books aren’t it, but that doesn’t stop challengers from using the term with abandon!

Violence

This can range from fantasy or slapstick violence to depictions of historical events.

Nudity

Again, this is a category that naturally affects comics and even picture books more than prose works, even though they might describe the same content.

Bigotry

Challenges in this category are often leveled without regard for context.

Sexual Content

This is the top challenge category overall, and as with Offensive Language above it encompasses multitudes from teenage gossip to actual sex scenes.

Drinking/Smoking/Drugs

Even when the characters indulging appear to be of age, some adults object to any depiction of mind-altering substances in comics.

Anti-Family

This category can encompass anything from same-sex parenting to divorce to child abuse.

LGBTQIA Content

Challenges against LGBTQIA-themed works have been steadily increasing in recent years, but in part that may be because they’re also becoming more mainstream for all ages!

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