2020 is here, and looking forward is important, but it’s also a chance to examine at the year as a whole and see the comics that have faced challenges to prepare for the year to come. The five listed here aren’t the only comics and graphic novels that have faced challenges and bans, but they are indicative of the material that is vulnerable to attacks from would-be censors.
Add one or more to your TBR pile and use it for your CBLDF Read (Something) More 2020 Reading Challenge!
The Handmaid’s Tale
Art & Adaptation Renee Nault, based on the Novel by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood’s dystopian classic The Handmaid’s Tale is experiencing a resurgence in popularity, its themes and message resonating with new and familiar audiences alike. Between Atwood’s long-awaited sequel, The Testaments, being released and the award-winning television series, it’s likely teachers will be drawn to include this cultural touchstone in their syllabi. The original text has consistently been one of the Top 100 Most Challenged and Banned Books for over twenty years, and now with the release of a critically acclaimed graphic novel adaptation, challenges to this graphic novel will continue to happen. The details from the 2019 challenge weren’t released to the public, but CBLDF has created a resource to allow teachers and librarians to add this to their classroom and collections with confidence. Checking out Adding The Handmaids Tale to your Library or Classroom Collection.
My Brother’s Husband
Created by Gengoroh Tagame, English Translation Anne Ishii
Gengoroh Tagame’s award-winning manga series My Brother’s Husband (Japanese: Otōto no Otto) has been hailed by critics and creators all over the world as a fascinating look at family, homophobia, cultural differences, and grief. Serialized in Japan from 2014 to 2017, the series was published in the U.S., translated by the acclaimed and talented Anne Ishii, in two omnibuses collecting the issues. The story focuses on single father Yaichi, his daughter Kana, and Mike Flanigan, a Candian man who shows up on their doorstep announcing he is the widower of Yaichi’s estranged twin brother. This manga is the perfect entry point into LGBTQ+ content, manga, or comics for readers unfamiliar with any of these areas, as the work is endlessly relatable to audiences of all types. But because LGBTQ+ content faces more challenges and bans than other work, CBLDF created a resource to help educators and librarians add this title to their classroom or collection without concern.
Story & Art by Yusei Matsui
In the U.S. where school shootings are not just a fear but a devastating reality, the title for Yusei Matsui’s comedic sci-fiction manga series is unfortunately misunderstood by many unwilling to delve into its pages. Assassination Classroom is not about the real-life violence that plagues schools, but rather a class of misfit students pledged with saving the world by killing their alien super-villain teacher (who has already blown up a decent chunk of the moon). As Lori Henderson wrote in her review for School Library Journal, “But it’s the connection that Koro Sensei makes with the kids, by really caring about them and helping them to learn and be better, whether it’s at communicating or assassinating, that makes this series really shine. When everyone else has given up on these kids, it’s the superpowered, tentacled weirdo who shows them they are worth something, and sometimes that all that is needed for kids to excel.”
Love is Love
Anthology edited by Marc Andreyko
On June 12, 2016, 49 people lost their lives and 53 people were injured at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Writer Marc Andreyko couldn’t sit by as the LGBTQ+ community and people around the world suffered in the wake of the massacre. He wanted to prove that Love Is Love, and that was how the anthology benefitting the victims and their families of this brutal shooting was born. This isn’t the first benefit comics anthology, but it is a great example of utilizing comics as a platform for activism and change. Last year Love is Love led to the removal of six graphic novels and a unit designed to teach social justice through comics. It is an upsetting look at the bigotry that LGBTQ+ comics still face in many environments, as well as a cautionary tale for teachers and librarians everywhere about the reality of book banning that still happens all over the country. Read about it here.
The Walking Dead
Last year one of the egregious instances of comics censorship involved the famed The Walking Dead in Idaho. This situation was surreal because it was set into motion by a teacher, and the principal not only removed all the volumes of the series against recommendation, but then told students they couldn’t bring their own copies to school to read, and looked into changing inter-library loan. CBLDF was quick to defend these comics, and in a letter to the Idaho school district, explained their educational value.
The graphic novel series casts a diverse ensemble of characters within a horror setting to examine serious topics including trauma, grief, loss, and the capacity for people to rebuild personal, social, and societal bonds when their status quo has been ripped away. The series explores the nature of civilization by casting its characters into a survivalist environment where readers are invited to consider how they would live without the conveniences and security of the modern world. As it progresses, the series also explores the role of law in society, with several storylines that explore authoritarian, democratic, anarchic, and militarized forms of government.
Over its run of more than 30 volumes, The Walking Dead explores many of the emotional, social, and intellectual issues teens grapple with every day, while also providing vital ways of thinking about topics examined in the course of their education.