Ten Challenged or Banned Comics for Your Summer Reading List

Happy Memorial Day! With summer unofficially underway, here are some challenged and banned comics to read at the beach or on those lazy backyard hammock days.


1. Bone by Jeff Smith

• Synopsis: Three creatures known as the Bones, who are outcast from their home village of Boneville and lost in a human land called The Valley, find themselves surrounded by talking bugs, vicious rat-like monsters, magic, and the occasional dragon. Smith’s epic follows Fone Bone and his two cousins, Smiley and Phoney, as they meet the valley’s denizens, become embroiled in their society, and discover their own heroism in confrontation with the rat creatures and their mystical master, the Lord of Locusts.

• Location of key challenge: Independent School District 196 in Rosemount, Minnesota

• Reason challenged: Promotion of smoking and drinking

A letter from Jeff Smith decrying the attempted ban of his book was read aloud at the library review committee’s hearing, and the challenge was ultimately rejected by a 10-1 vote, to the praise of Smith and the CBLDFMore…

dragon ball

2. Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama

• Synopsis: Follows the adventures of Goku and his friends from childhood through adolescence as he trains in martial arts and begins his exploits. Goku embarks on a quest for the seven mystical orbs called Dragon Balls, which summon a wish-granting dragon when gathered. Inspired by traditional Chinese storytelling and myths, Dragon Ball is a modern take on timeless classics and embodies themes of friendship, rivalry, victory and loss.

• Location of key challenge: All public school libraries in Wicomico County, Maryland

• Reason challenged: Violence and nudity

The library review committee recommended that the books in the Dragon Ball series, which were recommended by the publisher for ages 13+, be removed from the entire public school library system, including at the high school level. More…


3. Drama by Raina Telgemeier

• Synopsis: Follows the joys and tribulations of Callie and her middle school drama troupe.

• Location of key challenge: Chapel Hill Elementary School in Mount Pleasant, Texas

• Reason challenged: Sexual content

Although most readers of all ages found Drama to be just as endearing and authentic as Telgemeier’s other booksSmile and Sisters, a small but vocal minority have objected to the inclusion of two gay characters. More…


4. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

• Synopsis: A memoir of the author’s childhood, particularly focused on her relationship with her closeted gay father Bruce. As Alison grows older and realizes that she is a lesbian, she and Bruce are both forced to confront how his repression may have affected her own self-image and the way that she dealt with her sexuality.

• Location of key challenge: Various

• Reason challenged: Obscene images

CBLDF wrote a letter to the Marshall, Missouri public library on behalf of Fun Home and Craig Thompson’s Blankets, playing a key role in keeping both books on shelves. In 2014, the book faced a greater challenge in South Carolina, where the state legislature debated punitive budget cuts against the College of Charleston because it incorporated Fun Home into a voluntary summer reading program for incoming freshman. More…

Graveyard Book

5. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell

• Synopsis: Tells the story of Nobody Owens, a boy raised by ghosts, and his adventures through the graveyard where he lives. 

• Location of key challenge: Undisclosed

• Reason challenged: Violent imagery

In February 2015, CBLDF was confidentially involved the defense of the graphic novel edition of The Graveyard Book, which was challenged in an undisclosed middle school library for violent imagery. More…


6. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

• Synopsis: A graphic memoir of growing up during the Iranian Revolution.

• Location of key challenge: Various

• Reason challenged: Profanity, violent content

Furor erupted in 2013 when Chicago Public Schools sent an email to local principals, directing them to remove all copies of Marjane Satrapi’s award-winning graphic novel Persepolis. CPS backpedaled on the initial email, but the book was removed from Grade 7 classrooms and use in Grade 8 -10 classrooms now requires additional teacher training. Possibly as a result of publicity from the 2013 CPS ban, Persepolis faced three more school challenges in 2014, landing it the #2 spot on the American Library Association’s Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books for that year. More…


7. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

• Synopsis: A sci-fi epic following two star-crossed lovers from warring races as they flee from bounty hunters and try to raise their daughter in peace.

• Location of Challenge: Apple iOS (2013), Oregon (2014)

• Reason challenged: Sexual content, anti-family, nudity, offensive language, and unsuited for age group.

Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples sci-fi epic adventure, Saga, has not only become one of the bestselling and most critically acclaimed comic series since its debut in March 2012, but it has also become one of the most controversial comics. More…


8. Sandman by Neil Gaiman and various artists

• Synopsis: Chronicles the misadventures, struggles and complex relationships among seven mystical siblings

• Location of key challenge: Various

• Reason challenged: Anti-family themes, offensive language, and unsuited for age group

When asked about how he felt when Sandman was labelled unsuitable for teens, Gaiman responded, “I suspect that having a reputation as adult material that’s unsuitable for teens will probably do more to get teens to read Sandman than having the books ready and waiting on the YA shelves would ever do.” More…

This One Summer9. This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

• Synopsis: In the space of one summer vacation, two tween girls, local townie teens, and one set of parents all tangle in the delicate balances of friendships and relationships, grapple with the pains of growing up, deal with the torments of depression and of wanted and unwanted pregnancies, and cope with the heartbreaks and hopes of life.

• Location of key challenge: Henning, Minnesota and various undisclosed locations

• Reason challenged: Sexual content, unsuited to age group

Graphic novel This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki broke boundaries by becoming the first graphic novel to make the short list for the Caldecott Medal. Unfortunately, the Caldecott honor yielded an unforeseen negative outcome: Since the announcement of the Caldecott honor, CBLDF has been confidentially involved in monitoring challenges to This One Summer in various communities. More…


10. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

• Synopsis: An alternate history in which a group of retired crimefighters investigate and attempt to stop a plot to murder them.

• Location of key challenge: Various

• Reason challenged: Unsuited to age group

Watchmen 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 of Watchmen in school library collections has been challenged by parents at least twice, according to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual FreedomMore…

Help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work in 2015 by visiting the Rewards Zonemaking a donation, or becoming a member of CBLDF!