If you saw the movie Professor Marston and the Wonder Women then you have some idea about the history of banned comics in this country. In 1954, the United States Senate conducted a series of hearings on juvenile delinquency and comics. Because comics sit at this nexus where they are visual art and serialized stories they are often seen as being made for children’s entertainment; they come under scrutiny from moral gatekeepers. Often comics are banned for profanity, sex or nudity, violence, use of drugs and alcohol, or offense to religious beliefs. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund was founded to assist everyone from comic writers to readers to librarians to protect their First Amendment rights.
CBLDF is funded by members and donors and provides legal assistance when authorities intimidate individual or businesses about the comics they read, make, buy or sell. The organization boasts that often a letter or phone call from CBLDF’s lawyer is enough to end a case before it starts. They release a quarterly magazine, Defender, which highlights issues of censorship around the globe. They also hold workshops like their Retailer Rights Workshop, which gives comic retailers techniques for handling police visits, media attacks, and protests. Issues of Defender also include essays from the comic industry’s leading stars like Jason Aaron and Scott Snyder.
Recently, CBLDF released a book titled She Changed Comics edited Betsy Gomez. Originally, a series of Tumblr posts created during Women’s History Month, She Changed Comics is a book celebrating women who changed free expression in comics.
In addition to the book, the CBLDF website offers middle and high school teaching guides for the book. And currently in comic book shops nationwide and online CBLDF has released Be Heard! a free comic by cartoonist Kai Texel that outlines best practices for youth looking to assert their rights to protest and free expression.
The work that CBLDF does is vital in a world where freedom of expression has become an ever-attacked commodity. The ability to tell and disseminate our stories without persecution needs to be protected, and luckily, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is doing the work.
Check out more at www.cbldf.org