bbw, comics, & personal musings…

on

a bit of levity from xkcd [w/ the line: “of course, with their cautionary tale was reported in a print newspaper, no one  read it.”] 

“Given their visual nature and the rampantly held misconception that comic books are for children, comics are among the most challenged and banned books in libraries and schools.”—Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF)

When you think Banned Books Week, do you think Comics/Graphic Novels as well? I do, and I think it should be noted that among this year’s top ten most challenged books Kim Dong Hwa’s The Color Trilogy is second on the list. Reasons cited are: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group. I’m guessing the “unsuitable age group” includes our adolescent population because goodness knows conversations on menstruating, masturbation, wet dreams, and/or perverted and abusive adults (to name a few topics mentioned in the series) have zero relevancy at all, right?! And it is awful that Kim Dong Hwa handles a female’s (and male’s) bildungsroman so insensitively and with an absolute absence of the kind of cautionary tales young (and old) people can appreciate. I hope you were reading sarcasm there because it was intended. I found The Color Trilogy to be quite beautifully done. I did note in my review that

Some parts of the story and some of the sequences may startle the more –er—sheltered reader. There is more than one depiction of masturbation, masturbation not only an occupation of males. The sexual awakenings in the Trilogy find different venues and company, even within the purview of a singular character. In some instances the awareness is less than ideal, and others sweetly unfolded. There are gorgeous examples of homoeroticism, if you’ve ever wondered how that was supposed to work successfully.

To each their own and I think certain cautions can be reasonable—obviously, I include them upon occasion; poor editing, dragging pace, violence, sexism, and other things I think my reader’s are sensitive to and/or I am sensitive to personally or culturally. Caution should be used as an evaluatory measure, an ingredient in decision-making; not an excuse for excuse to limit access/choice. What Kim Dong Hwa offers is of incredible value: a willingness to talk about many taboo subjects. He recreates fictional scenarios and characters that I think a large population of people are waiting to hear that they do, in fact, exist outside of their own individual or social experiences. That they exist across cultural lines and a massive expanse of water is marvelous to encounter. The author/artist is exquisite in his medium–and even if he wasn’t…

For a series that wonders whether certain things should be considered deviant or not, I suppose it is good to be called out in a greater forum where we are forced to discuss what is suitable to an age group on topics of sex, relationships, and sexuality. Of course, this begs the question as to whether those challenging the books are truly engaged in the reading and interested the greater cultural discourse. Which brings me to Jeff Smith’s Bone series.

Bone has been challenged for its “Promotion of smoking and drinking” (CBLDF). In his letter to the school committee review board, Jeff Smith acknowledges the complaints of “as I understand it from news reports, concerns the depiction of gambling, alcohol and tobacco use, and “sexual situations between characters.”” Smith goes onto address these complaints in ways that make sense to anyone who has actually read even one volume of Bone.

At no time in the entire series is anyone rewarded for bad behavior.

The main troublemaker, Phoney Bone does try to win bets, and he cheats, but his plans always, ALWAYS backfire. His moneymaking schemes make him look like a greedy loser. That’s the point of the whole series:  selfish, immoral behavior is wrong.

Beer and gambling are depicted in BONE, but only as props or as story devices (even Smiley Bone’s stogie is little more than a Vaudeville/Groucho character prop). These things play a very small role in the overall BONE story.  I will also point out that beer and gambling can be seen in many Bugs Bunny cartoons, Disney movies, and just about anywhere you look. The trick is portraying them correctly.  These characters are the bad ones, and kids know the difference. Phoney and Smiley scheme and gamble and get their comeuppance.  The story’s heroes do not participate in any of these behaviors.

As far as “sexual situations between characters” are concerned, I know of none.”

These challenges to books, illustrated or no, remind us of how essential it is that we need to encourage not only a freed mind, but better communication with our youth. The Bone series challenge is  evidence of an adult/child disconnect—to say nothing of gross comprehension skills and/or reading habits of some adults. The disconnect is akin to challenges to the Color Trilogy, which it signals a desire for ignorance to remain among adults at the expense of the youth. But neglect would look bad so we adults ask ourselves: What kind of hollow reflex can we exercise to avoid true exertion?

I wonder at how much censorship is an act of caring versus an act of selfishness. For instance, what might contribute to the argument for selfishness over caring? fear, laziness, an overdeveloped need for control? Expanding ones mind can hurt. Critically engaging in conversation can be exhausting. Caring takes time and effort and really it is very very messy. Eyes closed, mouth closed, ears closed—all shut up; all shut up is so much easier. And sometimes it might be worth fighting for—fear driving us to make it stop—make it all. shut. up. And this is just me thinking about me and the daughter whom I’ve a right and responsibility to mind–which makes me all the more mindful.

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A list of banned/challenged books at ala.org. And a list of “Banned and Challenged Comics” at CBLDF

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Jeremy F says:

    Ahhh…. I’ll be honest. I hadn’t thought of banned comics… I can be slow. You’ve changed my whole worldview 😉 Great post.

    1. L says:

      I think the Color Trilogy is the first to really make it onto the upper lists of banned/challenged books. Though I’ve known Bone, Craig Thompson’s Blankets, and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home to be on lists with non-comic books. I think the increased awareness/challenges reveal how much more accessible and popular comics are in demand.

  2. I’ve been pondering on this post for a day or two and have tried to think of something to comment. I’m very aware of banned & challenged comics, but I had no idea that Smith’s wonderful epic was. Bone, in my memory, is very clean and an absolute gem.

    In short, this was an excellent post, L. People need to pay more attention to things and think about things a bit more critically.

    1. L says:

      thanks.

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