Hugo Chávez, draped in the Venezuelan flag surrounded by children adorns the cover of 5 million copies of a comic book version of the Venezuelan constitution. The comic will be given to every child in the country in the next weeks, blurring the line between entertainment and propaganda. The current President Nicolás Maduro called the comic “a beautiful gift to our nation’s children.” In full disclosure I was involved in the latest election for the losing side (though on the outskirts of it).
The goal of the comic book features Chávez and his “revolutionary brothers” act out the various constitutional provisions within while fending off “imperialist agents garbed in black trench coats.” Some have described those sinister villains as a barely veiled jab at America. The comic’s goal is to indoctrinate children. With the use of Chávez, the comic falls into more of a cult of personality we see in other nations, where political figures are raised to mythic levels.
These 5 million comics ironically also are coming out during a nationwide paper shortage which has lead many newspapers to stop printing due to lack of paper. Books can run for as high as $80 and toilet paper runs thin (as in hard to get a hold of, the paper itself isn’t thin, though it could be I guess). This illustrated version clocks in at 320 pages, that means 1.6 billion sheets of paper used, plus the cover.
The latest version of the constitution has been around since 1999, and the country has a habit of going through a lot of them. This latest version has lasted twice as long as the average of the 25 versions that came before. There was an attempt to change this one in 2007, so we’ll see how long this version lasts.
The graphic novel is also already looking at a second edition. The artists behind it, Omar Cruz is looking to make it more of a panel comic as opposed to stand-alone illustrations as seen in the first edition.
No matter your opinion of the country, it’s an interesting use of comics in education and politics.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund today published the advisory document “Legal Hazards of Crossing International Borders with Comic Book Art.” The advisory was created in response to an increasing number of reports from travelers who have been stopped, searched, and/or detained by customs agents because of comic book art they carried in print and electronic forms. CBLDF legal counsel Robert Corn-Revere prepared the advisory for the Fund’s constituents and members.
“Most people do not know that their constitutional rights are not guaranteed, even from U.S. Customs agents, when they cross international borders,” Corn-Revere said. “Their books, papers, laptop computers, and even cell phones are subject to routine search and possible seizure by the government, even without any suspicion of criminal activity. This is important to know in an age when many people carry with them a great deal of highly personal information in electronic form.”
The CBLDF’s advisory shines light on Immigrations and Customs Enforcement policies pertaining to the search of information, and also explains how border searches lack traditional legal protections otherwise afforded to speech. Finally, the document offers suggestions for avoiding intrusive border searches and protecting the safety of your information.
The CBLDF Advisory is available here as a Word document, and here as a PDF file.
About the CBLDF
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1986 as a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of First Amendment rights for members of the comics community. They have defended dozens of Free Expression cases in courts across the United States, and led important education initiatives promoting comics literacy and free expression. For additional information, donations, and other inquiries call 800-99-CBLDF or visit them online at www.cbldf.org.
Each week we bring you quotes from comic books to show they’re not all “bam,” “pow” and “smack.” Here’s this week’s Choice Quotes.
Avengers Academy #7
Reptil – Hello, Finesses… Due process of law? You don’t execute people without a trial.
Hazmat – Now that’s priceless. Reptil thinks we live in the world he read about in civics class.
Hank Pym – Believe in it or not, Hazmat, Constitutional rights still mean something.
Narrator – Stupid war, endless war, professional war, political war… the notion that starting a war is somehow a security necessary. No wonder people are in revolt. They got a war declared on them, too
Jeff Mace – It was Independence Day all over again for the hard-working employees of the Morgan Shoe factory, when a new Masked Marvel defended their constitutional right of assembly. The workers had gathered peacefully to discuss factory safety when they were disrupted by an unruly gang who were itching for a fight.
Store owner – You are the terrorists, not me! You and your government!
Deadpool – Hey, don’t look at me– I haven’t voted since the Pepsi challenge!
Store owner – Then you are guilt of doing nothing!
Deadpool – … what!? Man, complex political discussions make my head hurt…
Amina – I guess what I mean to say is one baby is too many to see in a warzone. But that’s the reality. All over the world, in every conflict. Is it any different here in America? Should it be?
The Invincible Iron Man #30
Tony Stark – Tonight, while escorting a young lady home from the Stark Resilient Gala I was the victim of an assassination attempt by terrorists. Apparently someone doesn’t like that Stark Resilient is building you a tomorrow that’s free of dependency on fossil fuels. They found out the hard way you can’t kill Iron Man and you can’t keep American ingenuity down.
The Video Game Voters Network sent out an email to it’s video game playing list “from” Stan Lee. The issue is the upcoming Supreme Court case, Schwarzenegger v. EMA. The court case would restrict sales of video games to minors. In a letter penned to the audience the comics legend runs parallels between the pogroms run against comics and today’s attacks on video games.
From his letter:
Comic books, it was said, contributed to “juvenile delinquency.” A Senate subcommittee investigated and decided the U.S. could not “afford the calculated risk involved in feeding its children, through comic books, a concentrated diet of crime, horror and violence.” Comic books were burned. The State of Washington made it a crime to sell comic books without a license. And Los Angeles passed a law that said it was a crime to sell “crime comic books.” Looking back, the outcry was — forgive the expression — comical.
The more things change, as they say, the more they stay the same. Substitute video games for comic books and you’ve got a 21st century replay of the craziness of the 1950s. States have passed laws restricting the sale of video games and later this year, the Supreme Court will hear a case about one of those laws, this one passed in California. Why does this matter? Because if you restrict sales of video games, you’re chipping away at our First Amendment rights to free speech and opening the door to restrictions on books and movies.
First they came for comic books, then they came for video games…..
But Stan Lee is right. Video games deserve similar free speech protections that comic books, movies, music, television, radio, books and so many other forms of entertainment enjoy.
So, what can you do to help in this fight?
Yesterday we ran an article about the Entertainment Consumers Association‘s Gamer Petition. The ECA represents video game consumers, and is submitting an amicus brief in the court case. Along side this amicus brief is the petition which shows California doesn’t speak for the people and there are folks who don’t agree with their law. Even though lower courts across the country have agreed such laws are unconstitutional, the Supreme Court will hopefully be settling this issue once and for all.
On April 26, 2010, the Supreme Court granted the state of California‘s petition for certiorari (cert) in Schwarzenegger v. EMA , the so-called “violent video game” case. This will be the first time that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on any of the state laws attempting to restrict or ban certain video games. Until now, all such laws have been struck down by lower federal courts as unconstitutional restrictions on Free Speech protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.
The Court will hear oral arguments on November 2, 2010. At that time, the Court will also review all friends of the Court briefs (amicus briefs) that will put forth additional information for the Court to consider. The Entertainment Consumers Association will be submitting such a brief on behalf of American digital entertainment consumers and will be attaching the gamer petition.