Banned comics

For this year’s Banned Book Week, the focus is on comics. From a story today on NPR by Lynn Neary, “Too Graphic? 2014 Banned Books Week Celebrates Challenged Comics”:

Comics and graphic books are flourishing these days — writers and illustrators are taking on increasingly sophisticated topics and children’s authors are finding just the right balance between naughty and nice. But a number of the books have come under fire from critics who would like to see them banned from schools and libraries. That’s why comics and graphic books are the focus of this year’s Banned Books Week, an annual event that calls attention to challenged titles.

Two books catch most of the attention: Jeff Smith’s Bone and Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants.

(Hat tip to Ryan Tamares.)

Earlier postings on this blog:

on graphic novels, on 5/27/12: A few graphic novelists (beyond [Alison] Bechdel), with a variety of approaches, audiences, and subject matter: Art Spiegelman, Neil Gaiman, Jeff Smith, Daniel Clowes, Adrian Tomine, Harvey Pekar; not all of them have been comfortable with the graphic novel label.

on Captain Underpants, from a 9/23/13 story on the Banned Books of 2013, in which Captain Underpants was a big winner: there are the underpants, and the references to pee-pee, poopy-pants, boogers, tinkletrousers, toilets, diapers, and so on — plus of course the disrespect. Guaranteed to suit the target audience and alarm the authorities.

The Banned Books poster for this year, featuring Captain Underpants:


More from Neary’s story:

Jeff Smith, author and illustrator of the popular series Bone, was at the annual Comic-Con convention in San Diego when he found out he had earned the dubious distinction of being named one of the top 10 most frequently challenged books in America.

Smith just didn’t get it. According to the American Library Association, which maintains the list of challenged and banned books, critics had tried to get Bone banned for three main reasons: violence, racism and political viewpoint.

Smith doesn’t understand how anyone could find his books racist. As for political viewpoint, he says books should reflect a certain moral sensibility. And violence? Well, he says, it is a comic book.

… Bone came in at No.10 on the list of frequently most challenged books. In the No. 1 spot? Another graphic — the enormously popular Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey.

“It’s naughty and it’s seditious and it certainly is irreverent and challenges authority,” says Judith Platt of the Association of American Publishers. Platt is the chair of this year’s Banned Books Week committee. While some parents may find Captain Underpants offensive, Platt says, others say their children would not be reading were it not for the books.

(My grand-daughter, who is a compulsive reader, is fond of both series.)

On Bone, from Wikipedia:

Bone is an independently published, epic comic book series, written and illustrated by Jeff Smith, originally serialized in 55 irregularly released issues from 1991 to 2004.

Smith’s black-and-white drawings were inspired by animated cartoons and comic strips, a notable influence being Walt Kelly’s Pogo: “I was … a big fan of [Disney cartoonist] Carl Barks and Pogo, so it was just natural for me to want to draw that kind of mixture of Walt Kelly and {French cartoonist] Moebius.” Accordingly, the story is singularly characterized by a combination of both light-hearted comedy and dark, epic fantasy: Time Magazine has called the series “as sweeping as the Lord of the Rings cycle, but much funnier.”

… The series centers on the Bone cousins, white, bald cartoon caricatures. In the opening pages of Out from Boneville the three Bone cousins — avaricious Phoncible P. “Phoney” Bone, goofy cigar-smoking Smiley Bone, and everyman character Fone Bone — have been run out of their hometown of Boneville after Phoney’s campaign for mayor went awry.

(There are adventures on the road, confrontations with a dark entity (the Lord of the Locusts), and more.)


The line between”just comics” and “graphic novels” is none too clear in these discussions, but the graphic novels are more substantial publications, with long story lines, and are more serious in scope.

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