Who is Afraid of Comics?
From Fifties horror comic books to the Oz and Nasty Tales trials to today’s fears about manga and webcomics, comics have been the targets of censorship, moral panics, police raids, strict codes of content, controversial obscenity prosecutions, even an Act of Parliament that is still in force. What is it that makes this medium seem so dangerous to certain parties?
Paul Gravett, co-curator of the British Library’s landmark 2014 exhibition, Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK, explores this history, examines how comic creators and readers have fought back, and considers the current climate for freedom of expression.
With thanks to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a U.S. non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting the First Amendment rights of the comics medium.
Banned Books Week was initiated by the American Library Association (ALA) in 1982 in response to an increasing number of challenges in the US to books in schools, bookstores and libraries, and in particular, books aimed at children or young adults.
Islington Library and Heritage Services, along with the British Library and Free Word, are celebrating Banned Books Week and drawing attention to censorship and free speech working alongside the American Library Association.
Paul Gravett is a London-based freelance journalist, curator, lecturer, writer and broadcaster who has worked in comics publishing and promotion since 1981. He is co-director of the festival Comica.London and the publishing house Escape Books. In 2016 he has co-curated Comix Creatrix: 100 Women Making Comics at House of Illustration, London, and The Story of British Comics So Far… Cor! By Gum! Zarjaz! at The Lightbox, Woking.
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