Tag Archives: censorship

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The weekend is almost here and we’ve got a new geeky film hitting theaters! Who’s going to see Solo: A Star Wars Story? Or Deadpool 2? Or Infinity War? It’s a great time to be a geek. While you wait for the day to wind down and the weekend begin, here’s some comic news from around the web in our morning roundup.

CBLDF – Rage Comics, China’s Latest Censorship Target – Interesting and unfortunate.

The Beat – Phoenix Comic Fest adds metal detectors and make more changes – This is where we’re at in society.

Movie Review: The Death of Stalin

the-death-of-stalin-posterThis is a film the Russian government doesn’t want you to see. Literally.

Banned by Putin’s government and labelled as “extremist” and “propaganda,” really this is little more than a continuation of director Armando Iannucci‘s continued skewering of government apparatchiks set against the backdrop of Soviet Russia. If you loved his previous work (In the Loop, The Thick of It, and Veep), this is more of that same brand of humor– all it’s missing is Peter Capaldi swearing very loudly.

Instead, you have an all-star cast that includes Steve Buscemi as Nikita Krushchev, Jeffrey Tambor as Georgi Malenkov, and Michael Palin as Vyacheslav Molotov. Simon Russell Beale also plays the head of the NKVD (Stalin’s secret police) and Jason Isaacs tries to steal the movie when he shows up halfway through as Zhukov, head of the Red Army. And if you know those names and institutions and who they are, you will probably also love this movie. (Yes! That Russian Studies degree finally pays off!)

Based on a comic book of the same name (which we reviewed here), it’s the same sort of bureaucratic pissing contest between insecure men which Iannucci has made a career out of skewering. The basic tension is over succession following Stalin’s (spoiler alert!) eponymous passing. At the height of Stalin’s terror and paranoia, the various apparatchiks go about plotting against one another. . .  and wackiness ensues.

A darkly hilarious early scene involves an ailing Stalin unconscious on the floor, and he has soiled himself. The Soviet leadership gathers in the room and must decide by committee vote what to do. All of the good doctors have been sent to the gulags. So do we call a bad doctor? What if Stalin recovers and blames us for calling a bad doctor? And when they finally go to pick him up to take him to a bed, no one wants to kneel in the spot where Stalin peed. That’s basically the movie– and also lots of people being shot in the head for treason.

Death of Stalin US posterThe biggest problem in the film is its failure in its lack of representation. Two women have very minor roles in this, and it in no way approaches passing Bechdel or any other test. This seems to be something people noticed about the film, as the US poster released features Andrea Riseborough as Svetlana, Stalin’s daughter. But she is barely in the film. It is also as white as a Leningrad blizzard.

If I’m going to call out films like Dunkirk and Darkest Hour for choosing to tell stories only about and involving white men, I feel the need for consistency to do so here as well. Yes, yes, yes, historical accuracy and all that, but any time you choose to tell a story only involving white men — even if it viciously satirizes them as this film does — you have to ask why we chose to make this movie and not something else.

Despite that problem, it’s still a really funny movie and something that is incredibly enjoyable– and disturbing. If any of this sounds interesting to you, you’re going to love this film and its dark humor. If not, well, there’s always Tomb Raider, A Wrinkle in Time, and Black Panther out there if you want to see an adaptation that’s a little lighter. The Death of Stalin opens in limited release March 16, expanding March 23.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Facebook Censors the Critically Acclaimed “Your Black Friend” Animated Film (Updated)

On Friday January 26th, Facebook took action against an animated short film made by a black artist, about anti-black racism, posted by independent comic book publisher Silver Sprocket.

The animated adaptation of Ben Passmore‘s award winning Your Black Friend comic book received positive attention when it was posted last Monday, garnering more than 130,000 views between YouTube and Facebook.

Based on Passmore’s comic book of the same name that in 2017 was nominated for an Eisner Award and won the Ignatz, Dinky, and Broken Frontier awards, and coveted spot on NPR’s 100 Favorite Graphic Novels list.

The animation was produced by Silver Sprocket and Doggo Studios to promote Passmore’s upcoming hardcover collection, Your Black Friend and Other Strangers, collecting 120 pages of comics from VICE, The Nib, and various other publications to be released in March of 2018 and available for pre-order now from Silver Sprocket’s online store.

Though unavailable on Facebook, the video remains on YouTube.

Update: Facebook says it was taken down in error.

CBLDF Signs On with the NCAC to Support Simon & Schuster and Milo Yiannopoulos

CBLDF_LOGOThe Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has come under fire for signing onto a letter with the National Coalition Against Censorship to defend Simon & Schuster‘s plan to publish a book by controversial alt-right/hate personality Milo Yiannopoulos. Yiannopoulos is reportedly being paid $250,000 for the deal which will see the book published under the Threshold Editions which specializes in conservative personalities/books.

The NCAC joint letter/statement described Yiannopoulos as “a self-described “super-villain”, is notorious for comments and views that are deeply offensive to many.” A nice sanitized description of a ringleader and “voice” behind online harassment campaigns aimed primarily at women, minorities, and those of the liberal persuasion and language that many describe as “hate speech.”

It should also be noted the Yiannopoulos’ self-published book of poetry contained plagiarized lyrics unattributed to musician Tori Amos.

The announcement goes further to state:

NCAC’s statement supports the right to boycott a book or a company for any reason. It underlines, however, the chilling effect the response will have on authors and publishers who want to tackle topics and ideas that some may find disfavorable. The statement argues that “the suppression of noxious ideas does not defeat them; only vigorous disagreement can counter toxic speech effectively.

The CBLDF is joined by the American Booksellers Association, Association of American Publishers, Authors Guild, Freedom to Read Foundation, Index on Censorship, and the National Council of Teachers of English.

The announcement by the CBLDF of the support has led to a backlash with individuals questioning the need for the CBLDF to get involved in the first place, the focus on equating boycotts with censorship, and the lack of recognition that Yiannopoulos and his ilk are an actual threat to the lives of marginalized individuals. There’s also irony since the alt-right and their affiliated movements like GamerGate regularly coordinate in attacks to censor the left or anything they disagree with. The

The comic industry recently saw that in a dust-up concerning writer Chelsea Cain and the Marvel series Mockingbird. These same organizations were silent during that not issuing a statement of support. In fact the CBLDF has been silent towards the attacks on and sustained harassment women and marginalized communities in the comic industry in an attempt to drive them out.

The backlash to the CBLDF’s decision was bad enough that they felt the need to further clarify their support again conflating a boycott with censorship. They are not one and the same since a boycott occurs after something is released and has a goal to drive further decisions through the manipulation of the free market and capitalism. A boycott of South Africa was not a censorship of Apartheid as an example.

Read the “clarification” below or directly on Twitter.

cbldf-simon-and-shuster

The response was not positive as many noted this is more akin to the hate speech that actually threatens lives, stirs hatred, and advocates for the stripping of rights and protections from groups. They also remind the CBLDF by paying money and publishing a book, that is an endorsement of the ideas within the book and a debatably worse reality of profiting from hate. You become an enabler to the hate speech giving it a platform. There’s also a valid questioning that since censorship is not happening, again a boycott is not censorship, of why the CBLDF didn’t sit this one out.

As a donor to the CBLDF, I do question where dollars are being spent in this case (UPDATE: No money has been spent on this). One Tweet said it best, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

 

Northwest’s Hard to Swallow for Apple. Readers Get a Free Version.

Hard to Swallow UncensoredTwo weeks ago, Northwest Press submitted their new book Hard to Swallow to Apple’s iBooks with the goal of having a day-and-date release to coincide with the paperback edition that will be in comic book stores this month.

Apple rejected the book, just like they have Northwest Press’ past two releases aimed at adults. The reason is the comics having “prohibited explicit or objectionable content.”

The publisher has now decided to offer a censored version of the book for free, to shine a spotlight on what it sees as Apple’s ongoing campaign against sex in art.

In the days before the iPad debuted, Apple repeatedly rejected comic books and apps with gay content—some of which were very tame and included no nudity—and was accused of following a double standard when compared to heterosexual content. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs famously defended the platform’s restrictions on sexual content by saying Apple provided his customers “freedom from porn.”

Charles “Zan” Christensen, Northwest Press’ publisher and board member of the nonprofit LGBT comics advocacy organization Prism Comics, took them to task publicly for this in an online article.

in 2011, when the iBooks store was opened up to comics content from indie publishers, Northwest Press submitted its very first release, Jon Macy’s Teleny and Camille (which at that time was the most explicitly sexual book they had published). Apple accepted it, and accepted every subsequent release for about two years.

In Fall of 2013, Apple changed its submission process; they added a new “Explicit Content?” checkbox to their iTunes Producer software, which is used to submit titles to iBooks. The first book Northwest Press submitted to Apple since that change was Al-Qaeda’s Super Secret Weapon, a gay, erotic, political satire of the War on Terror. This book contained far less sexual content than Teleny, so the publisher was perplexed when the book was rejected. Despite following up and protesting the rejection, Apple’s decision stood.

This happened again when Jon Macy finished the final chapter of his fantasy epic Fearful Hunter, and Northwest Press submitted the collected edition to iBooks. Apple rejected it. Lets make that clear. Apple had already approved the first three issues. But, when those issues were collected, they were rejected.

Now that Hard to Swallow has been rejected as well, the publisher feels that Apple will continue to reject any graphic novel that includes sexual content.

Christensen emphasizes that this is not censorship, per se.

Apple is not the US government, and they can make their own decisions about what to include or not. But the waters are muddied by the fact that Apple’s devices behave a lot more like a distribution platform than a standalone bookstore, with independent publishers using iPhones and iPads as a means to distribute their work. When Apple blocks material on content grounds—blocking it from being sold in any app installed on a customer’s device, by the way—they are effectively banning the book from being sold on any of Apple’s over a billion active devices.

Hard to Swallow CensoredTo make a point about what Apple’s behavior, Northwest Press has created a special version of Hard to Swallow, which readers can download for free. They refer to it as the “apple version”, because all of the sexual content and nudity has been censored with pictures of apples.

The publisher has included an introduction to the special edition, penned by Christensen, as well as several Internet links: one is to an iBooks feedback form where the publisher urges individuals to share their feelings about content restrictions—”respectfully but firmly”—with Apple. The second is a link to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, who work to protect comic book creators from censorship and legal threats. The third is a link to Northwest Press’ entire catalog on comiXology, including the two previous books which Apple has rejected.

Around the Tubes

It’s new comic book day tomorrow! The first new comic book day of 2016! What are folks looking forward to? We’ll have our picks in just a few hours.

Until then, here’s some comic book news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

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GamePolitics – The Public Domain Once Again Loses In The New Year – Very unfortunate.

Publisher’s Weekly – Superfan Promotions Hires Horvath, Turner – Congrats!

CBLDF – Cartoonist Discusses Self-Censorship Epidemic in India – Very interesting and unfortunate to see.

DC Comics Blog – Ten Moments that Mattered: DC Fans Take Action…and Succeed! – Last time DC listened to their fans, Jason Todd died…

ArtsBeat – Charlie Hebdo Releases Special Anniversary Edition – One year after the horrific events.

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

ICv2 – Aldonah.Zero Season One Vol. 1 TP

CBR – Justice League #47

CBR – Lazarus #21

Around the Tubes

The weekend is almost here, and that means comics and SPECTRE! Who’s going to see the film this weekend? While you check the availability of tickets, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

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DC Comics – DC Entertainment Statement on George Barris – Our thoughts are with Barris’ family and friends.

BBC – Graphic novel tells autobiography of child soldier – We really want to check this out.

CBLDF – Middle School Censorship Plan Leaves New Jersey Community Torn – Sigh.

CBR – “Arrow” Sees Ratings Bump with Constantine Appearance – People are surprised?

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

Nothing But Comics – Paper Girls #2

Comics Alliance – Snowpiercer: Terminus

 

Around the Tubes

The weekend is almost here! How many of you are heading to Halloweenfest? Have fun for those that do! While you decide if you’re going, here’s some news from around the web in our morning roundup.

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The Outhousers – In Sneak Censorship Attack, Outhouse to Unleash Army of Mini-Werthams on Unsuspecting Comics Industry – A call for censorship against calls for censorship. The circle is complete.

Sktchd – Marvel’s Secret Problem: Looking at How its Eventful Present Could be Impacting its Future – Guessing that wasn’t the intention?

The Hollywood Reporter – Sky Italy Producing ‘Monolith’ Film Based on Graphic Novel – When does it get easier to track what’s not being produced?

Kotaku – Batman: Arkham Knight’s PC Version Is Far From ‘Fixed’ – Well this should be entertaining to watch.

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We’re still recovering from New York Comic Con, and it’s new comic book day tomorrow! What’s everyone excited for this week? While you decide on that, here’s some comic book news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

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CBDLF – 5 Year Court Battle Leads to Censorship of Lebanese Comics Magazine – Sigh.

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

CBR – The Omega Men #5

CBR – Paper Girls #1

CBR – Secret Wars #6

CBR – Star Wars #10

Banning vs. Censorship vs. Pulling, There’s a Big Difference

CensorshipWhile many agreed with our statement that Image ComicsAirboy #2 written by James Robinson contained material that was transphobic, some also did not support our call to pull the comic from shelves (virtual or physical). They decried censorship, hid behind free speech and artistic expression, and some trotted out the 1st Amendment. In doing so, they played into the hands of individuals defending the status-quo, and conflating the concepts of banning, censorship, and pulling an item. These are three concepts that are all very different.

When it comes to banning or censorship, banning is the easiest of the two to debunk as an argument. The act of banning is usually an act determined by a law, official decree, or some official. Last I checked we at no time addressed the situation to government officials, asked for governmental interference, or a law to be passed, so in that essence it’s absolutely not the correct term at all to be used.

There’s also the other definitions of the term such as prohibiting an action or forbidding the use of something, or refusal of allowing someone to go somewhere, do something, or participate in something. Can’t say we called for any of that either. The comic was already out in the public, and at no time did we say folks should never have access to the comic.

So, to everyone that used the word “ban,” you are factually incorrect in your hyperbolic statement(s).

Censorship is a more interesting one to discuss and debate. The ACLU defines censorship this way:

…the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. Censorship by the government is unconstitutional.

I think we can all agree on the above definition. Immediately we can get rid of the part of this being “censorship by the government.” As much as I’d like to run for office, I am not the government, so no matter what, hiding behind this as unconstitutional is again factually incorrect. Anyone claiming so shows a lack of understanding about the 1st Amendment and what it actually protects.

Bill_of_Rights_Pg1of1_ACThe 1st Amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” We’re not the government, case closed on that part of the debate.

Censoring is actual deletion or prevention of an idea or feeling. We never asked for the deletion of the comic at all. But we asked for was something much broader, and actually a form of free speech. That gets us to our actual “ask,” for Image Comics to pull the comic.

Pulling is a completely different thing. It is asking the petitioned to engage in speech themselves through a specific action. Like a sit in, chaining yourself to an item, the act of pulling an item is actual speech through action. We most recently saw this as Bree Newsome acted through civil disobedience to pull the Confederate flag down from a pole on the grounds of the South Carolina state Capitol. Our ask wasn’t to that level, or the other examples I gave, but such actions are similar in nature. So for those denouncing our ask, I guess you can call them hypocritical on the subject.

People need to remember that free speech does not equal freedom from criticism, nor does it mean freedom from consequences. Free speech does not guarantee one a platform to engage in that speech. The platform in this case is digital shelf space, physical shelf space, and promotional plans. We critiqued the work for over 36 hours without response. We engaged in free speech spinning out of that criticism. When it was clear we were being ignored, we asked others to engage in free speech through action. That action, for a publisher to exercise their own free speech in whether to support a comic or not. But not giving the comic a platform, Image would themselves be expressing free speech.

This act would also not prevent the comic from being able to be obtained elsewhere. The creators would be free to sell the comic themselves, submit it to other platforms, and use the many other distribution methods they have access to. This is not a case of a comic never being able to be obtained again. Stores would still be able to make their own decisions as to what to do with it. Digital platforms too would be able to make their own decisions as well.

I think Laura Sneddon says it best in her take on the situation:

A comic that is sexist, misogynist and transphobic has every right to exist. But it does not have every right to be bought or supported. And when a publisher produces such comics my opinion of them is severely lowered. And of the creators too. And any shop that carries the title knowing the contents therein? Yup, you as well.

The thing about free speech is that everyone is free to utilise it. Go ahead and publish your own comic full of whatever you want! But if that comic contributes to harmful ideas that have real life counterparts and results they help bolster, you are also completely free to receive the criticism coming your way. And if you’re a publisher putting out such content? Don’t be surprised if people start to question the other titles they buy from you.

I also want to remind folks we were the site that rallied creators, other blogs, and some publishers against internet censorship during the SOPA/PIPA fight in 2012. This was an actual fight against government censorship, and the power of corporations to censor what they don’t like. Many sites and creators who are wrapping themselves in the 1st Amendment and free speech were silent then. Some others said they supported that action, but couldn’t speak publicly as their publisher didn’t. Some also repeated similar statements in private emails showing support over this.

We as a society live under a social contract as to norms and behaviors. Every single day we self censor as individuals, holding back what we might think, or wording things in a particular way as to not hurt, offend, or worse, those around us. WE ALL CENSOR OURSELVES. In our thought. In our actions. The idea of free speech is a myth we tell ourselves to make us feel good about society. In our bringing up this topic, we asked Mr. Robinson to think about and reflect on that social contract, and how the material he produced fit into that puzzle. The troubling scene in particular, and discussions and actions within by characters, brought no special value to the art. There are many other scenarios that would have gotten the same points across and done so without treading into dangerous myths and tropes that are used in the real world to justify violence against transgender individuals. And no, I’m not saying Robinson advocated for such violence. The social contract I’ve mentioned has a primary goal being the desire of protection of those around us. That protection does come with the surrendering of some personal liberties, and results in the self censorship we all do. Every action we partake in has some of that sacrifice.

As far as the specific ask, and those who felt it went too far. I hope one day I get to negotiate against you in some way, because going in with your specific goal/want is exactly what you shouldn’t do. You need to leave room for negotiation. “Pulling” was the extreme ask to leave wiggle room for that exact negotiation. I’ve never gone into a negotiation with exactly what I’ve wanted, I’ve always asked for more to leave room to get what I really want. I think that was lost on a lot of folks. It’s also not exactly something you can say publicly.

Overall, for those focused on the ideas of banning, and censorship, you’re falling for the talking points of those against progressiveness, openess, and a welcoming attitude within the comics community. You’re being distracted from discussing the material itself and engaging in debate on THEIR terms, not OURS.

But, when it really comes down to it, it’s also not factually correct at all.

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
 

-Frederic Douglass

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