Missouri state Rep. Ben Baker (R) has introduced a bill meant to “protect children” who visit public libraries. In reality, that bill will lead to censorship and possibly land librarians in jail.
Any library that receives state funding would need to protect minors from “age-inappropriate sexual material.”
The bill would create “parental review boards” made up of five locally elected community members who would review and decide what content would be inappropriate. If that sounds familiar it’s the plot of numerous stories where it’s never worked.
Librarians who “willfully” violate the decisions could be fined $500 or face up to a year in jail.
The concept is censorship and an attack on free expression. It’s book banning and one step away from book burning.
Books with sexual themes, uplifting LGBTQIA+ characters, ones that address sensitive topics, even scientific knowledge, are potentially on the chopping block.
Baker has responded that the books would not be banned but keeps them out of the children’s section. An adult could check the book out for their child. In other words, Baker believes parents are incapable of doing that already and believes in a nanny state.
One benefit of transitioning from the corporate world to the library world is that I get to work with and handle comics (or graphic novels as they like to call them.) on a daily basis. I mean I literally got paid to order and enter the ordering information for the first volume of Saladin Ahmed and Javier Garron’s Miles Morales: Spider-Man comic today and then at my other job at a public library, I got to show a couple of kids (whose first library card I made.) where the Pokemon “comics” were. It’s pretty awesome, but there’s a bittersweet lining to it too.
And that lining is that in the minds of many of the people I interact with at work, whether that’s colleagues or patrons, comics are still solely for kids. Yes, I know it’s a cliche, but it was corroborated by Eric Reynolds, the co-publisher of Fantagraphics in an interview with Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg of the Cartoonist Kayfabe podcast where he talked about how well comics by Dav Pilkey or Raina Telgemaier were selling, but how those sales don’t translate to the adult or even the YA market. Kids comics (and manga) are booming, but unless you’re already into the world of comics, or it’s something evergreen like Watchmen, Maus, or Fun Home, it seems like comics are not a viable reading material for, say, post-college age adults.
And I hate that I don’t feel empowered to recommend comics and graphic novels to adults at my work unless they’re already checking one out. For example, I told a patron who checked out Manhattan Projects to check out Jonathan Hickman’s recent X-Men work and that we would probably be ordering the complete hardcover in the winter. However, if a patron likes spy novels, I probably won’t recommend Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Velvet or Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s The Coldest City. I think a lot of this is how the graphic novels are shelved. (In the teens and kids section at one job, and hidden away on the 2nd floor at another.) But it might be a personal thing too.
In my mind as a comics critic/fan and librarian-in-training, I have two wolves inside me. One is out here trying to champion comics as either serious literature or something that can appeal to everyone like young adult dystopian novels, airport novels, or Oprah’s Book Club nonfiction. (She makes some pretty great choices.) Then, there’s another, admittedly bad, wolf that relishes in comics’ history and reputation as the “bastard child of art and commerce” and doesn’t give a shit if the people around me look down on the medium or see it as only fit for children and people, who need help learning how to read. (This is hilariously reductive because comics require both verbal and visual literacy to be understood.) I also enjoy having a little fun and saying things like the latest issue of Batman has more literary value than anything James Patterson and Tom Clancy. (It’s true, especially when Scott Snyder and Grant Morrison were writing the book.)
What both wolves really like to come to blows over is the term “graphic novel”. The good wolf likes to emphasize it when talking to patrons because it reminds them of a currently respected medium. (The novel, which used to be seen as trash once upon a time.) The bad wolf likes to say that it’s a meaningless term, especially for trade paperbacks of ongoing series with multiple writers and artists. Both wolves agree that graphic non-fiction, memoirs, and medicine belong with their respective subjects and not with “graphic novels” because that makes so sense. Would you shelve a non-fiction book about anxiety next to J.D. Robb’s latest vapid thriller?
If I had my way, I would call anything that told a sequential story in both words and images a comic, plain and simple. However, graphic novel does have some marketing value even though some of the ways it’s used and overused are utterly banal. But, hey, if leads to a comic being checked out, I’ll use the word.
I have high hopes that as film and television shows of different genres that are comic book adaptations continue to be released, members of Generation Z keep reading comics even after their teachers and other adults say “They’re below their reading level” (This adds to their punk rock value, to be honest.), and cartoonists like Gene Luen Yang and Ed Piskor speak at prestigious book events (Aka they mainly focus on prose.) that comics will end up being just another item on the reading menu. Maybe, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will get elected president in 2024 and invite Alan Moore (He’ll probably decline.) and Dave Gibbons to chat Watchmen.
But, for now, I need to dig a little deeper and get better at recommending comics to people who aren’t children, teenagers, “geeks”, or fans of science fiction and fantasy. (I got a librarian at my work, who read Mort Weisinger-edited Superman books and 1960s Marvel comics as a child, seriously hooked on Saga.) I need to be a little less precious about semantics and use the term “graphic novel” as a tool for promotion instead of something that numbs my brain and makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit. I need to understand that some people might not have the visual literacy levels to read and enjoy comics, which is okay.
And my final takeaway is that I need to read more manga. Seriously, I went to a Barnes and Noble in the Louisville, Kentucky suburbs and there were four full rows of manga. Because of the prevalence of public transportation and the lack of a Comics Code incident leading to one genre taking over the industry due to censorship, manga of all genres is easy to obtain in Japan, and maybe it’ll be like that the United States. But, for now, it’s time to crack open Uzumaki by Junji Ito. (Once I knock off all the others on my “to be read” list).
It’s new comic book day tomorrow! What’s everyone excited for? What do you plan on getting? Sound off in the comments below. While you think about that, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web.
The American Library Association’s Graphic Novels & Comics Round Table (GNCRT) is partnering with comic creators in support of Library Card Sign-Up Month in September.
For the month of September, the GNCRT will be featuring a new creator each day posing with their library card. Showcasing comic creators in this #GetLibraryCarded campaign spotlights the mutually beneficial relationship between creators and libraries in support of literacy, intellectual freedom, and creative expression – we are stronger together.
This is the first advocacy campaign of the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table. The GNCRT coordinates ongoing advocacy and outreach at several national comic conventions including hosting professional development sessions and booth or pop-up libraries including at Comic-Con International: San Diego, C2E2 and New York Comic-Con. The GNCRT is committed to professional development within librarianship – and committed to public outreach and advocacy around comics and graphic novels and comics readership at all levels.
Follow @libcomix and @ALALibrary on Twitter to see your favorite comics creators #GetLibraryCarded! Participating creators include writer/artist Jimmy Palmiotti (Harley Quinn, Marvel Knights, Painkiller Jane), cartoonist Dav Pilkey (Dog Man, Captain Underpants), artist/editor Christina “Steenz” Stewart (Archival Quality, Rolled & Told), and writer Lilah Sturges (Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass, The Magicians: Alice’s Story), and more.
The weekend is almost here and that means Free Comic Book Day! Who’s excited for the best day of the year which takes place this Saturday! What do you plan on getting? Sound off in the comments below! While you think about that, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web.
Yes, Archival Quality is a ghost story about a young archivist named Cel, who gets haunted by a woman named Celine, who received a lobotomy when the Logan Museum (The setting for the graphic novel.) was a sanatorium in the early 20th century. But it’s also about relationships, mental health, coping with anxiety and depression, and messy human things in general. Ivy Noelle Weir does an excellent job fleshing out her small cast and giving them distinct ways of speaking, passions, life goals, and senses of humor while Steenz turns in some of the most adorable comic book art I have ever laid eyes on.
Steenz is also a gifted storyteller, who knows when to use a beat panel, facial expression, or sound effect to set up a joke or bring on the waterworks. A decent portion of the story happens in fragmented flashbacks to Celine’s life , and she uses a subdued sepia palette to keep the story grounded and not become some melodramatic Gothic potboiler. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that kind of story.) There are plenty of ghosts, skulls, and unexplained occurrences, but Weir takes her time with the mystery side of Archival Quality and gives the characters fairly realistic reactions to the strange phenomena around them. Hooray for common sense moments like when Cel asks her boss, the curator Abayomi, why they are hiring a third full time staff member when barely anyone visits the Logan Museum.
A refreshing thing about Archival Quality is that the characters aren’t stereotypes or even archetypes. For example, Cel’s boyfriend Kyle could easily be written as an ableist villain, but Weir and Steenz give him layers of warmth and caring as he just wants Cel to feel better and find the help she needs. (Seriously, Steenz draws the best hugs.) However, that help might not involve a relationship with him, and Kyle does put hi. Weir and Steenz don’t fall into messy breakup cliches and organically show Cel and Kyle’s relationship break down over time with little things like them not moving in together or Cel not checking in with him via phone or text.
The Logan Museum does have terrible cellphone and Internet service, and Weir and Steenz seed in some ideas about our reliance on technology to connect with each other without turning Archival Quality into some kind of technoparable. The lack of contact with the outside world, the presence of mysterious women with dreams, and phenomena like missing teeth in artifacts turns Logan Museum into a kind of emotional laboratory where feelings like inadequacy, anxiety, and anger are intensified. But it’s also a cool space where Holly, Cel’s immediate superior, can show off her medical know how to solve a mystery, and stories of people with mental health issues can be restored and told and not locked away like their friends and family did to them when they were alive.
The character who I connected with the most and ended up almost stealing the entire comic book during his flashback sequence was Abayomi, a polite withdrawn man, who seems a little too young to be a curator. At the beginning of Archival Quality, he seems a little too terse and impersonal, and Steenz draws him with purposefully stiff body language to go with his professorial glasses and starched suits that leads to a big laugh when he reveals his love for a copyright friendly toaster strudel-type breakfast pastry. But, towards the middle of the comic, Weir and Steenz reveal that he has interacted with Celine and did research on her leading to the disappearance of the old curator, Dr. Weston.
Abayomi must straddle the world of ghosts and world of corporate bureaucracy (The very invisible and ominous “board”.) and put on a face of extreme competency to hide his feelings about Celine and connection to her. This is the connection he shares with Cel, and they bond over their quest and are kind of friends with great chemistry. The turning point is a panel drawn by Steenz of a close-up handshake that is equal parts empathy and a business partnership. She and Weir also face the myth that men and women can’t be platonic friends head on in a scene where Cel impactfully (and hilariously) defuses the rumor that their “research project” is Abayomi trying to be with her romantically. For the record, I do ship them, especially after an epilogue type sequence.
Archival Quality has all the elements from a great comic from Steenz’s art that has a distinct style and clearly conveys emotion, humor, and suspense to Ivy Noelle Weir taking time to let characters just be and not rushing their development for the sake of a creepy mystery. Plus it shows that it’s sometimes okay to be angry about things, sometimes it’s better to be alone than be in a relationship, and introduces a super rad, competent, and queer medical librarian in Holly, who is totally my professional role model as I work on my MLIS.
This program, the first of its kind in the United States, is an outright gift of graphic novels to the library as selected by the library’s collections specialists, who selected 65 titles comprising 298 individual books.
There was a formal presentation of the books to Scott Firestine, Director of the Richmond Public Library by Small Press Expo Graphic Novel Gift Program Director Catherine Fraas on Saturday, September 10. The presentation was accompanied by special comics related events at the main library branch in downtown Richmond.
The books were selected by the library’s collection staff from the offerings of publishers Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Drawn & Quarterly, Adhouse Books, Cartoon Books, and Koyama Press, all of whom support this program.
The artist Lucy Bellwood designed a special bookplate that has been placed in all of the books donated by SPX.
SPX’s Graphic Novel Gift Program is an expansion of the philanthropic and charitable endeavors that are part of its corporate charter, and is in addition to SPX’s annual support to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. The targets of this program are public and academic library systems in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area as selected by the Small Press Expo.
The goals of this program are:
to facilitate the availability of graphic novels to readers of all ages utilizing public and school libraries,
to promote learning and literacy through the availability of graphic novels at local libraries, and
to provide library systems with additional resources by which they can purchase graphic novels and comics.
SPX will be held Saturday, September 17 from 11am-7pm and Sunday, September 18, 12-6pm at the North Bethesda Marriott Convention Center in North Bethesda, Maryland. Admission is $10 for a single day and $15 for both days.
hoopla digital, the category-creating mobile and online service for public libraries, has announced a new content agreement with Archie Comics. With the agreement, hoopla digital’s app and online service adds popular titles from Archie Comics’ three imprints – including acclaimed, best-selling titles such as the revampedArchie and Jughead; video game favorites like Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man; and Archie’s Dark Circle comics featuring genre-defying superheroes like The Black Hood. hoopla digital will also add the newly announced Betty and Veronicarelaunch following the debut of the first issue this summer.
Archie Comics titles are immediately available for participating library patrons to instantly access on hoopla digital’s app and online service via their smartphones, tablets and computers.
Inclusion of Archie Comics broadens hoopla digital’s collection of more than 500,000 movies, TV shows, music albums, eBooks, audiobooks and comics. hoopla digital partners with public libraries across North America to provide patrons with online and mobile access to dynamic digital content. The service’s catalogue already includes titles from DC Comics, Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Valiant Comics and more.
hoopla digital’s innovative Action View creates one-of-a-kind immersive digital reading by allowing for full page and panel-by-panel views of comics and illustrations. There is no waiting to borrow titles on hoopla digital since on-demand content can be enjoyed by multiple patrons simultaneously. Patrons who use hoopla digital also avoid library late fees as digital content borrowing periods simply expire without charges.
hoopla digital has partnerships with more than 950 public library systems across North America including Toronto Public Library, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Boston Public Library, Los Angeles Public Library, St. Louis Public Library, and others.
hoopla digital is the category-creating mobile and online service for public libraries and today they have announced the addition of new titles from Valiant Entertainment. With the agreement, hoopla digital’s app and online service adds popular titles —through Valiant Entertainment’s global digital distribution partner Trajectory, Inc.— including the sci-fi superhero epic, X-O Manowar (Vol. 1-8); the pulsating action series, Bloodshot Reborn, (Vol. 1); and the globe-trotting adventure, Archer & Armstrong (Vol. 1-6), to name a few.
Valiant Entertainment titles and more are now available for patrons to access instantly on hoopla digital’s app and online service via their smartphones, tablets and computers.
Inclusion of Valiant Entertainment titles broadens hoopla digital’s catalog of more than 400,000 movies, TV shows, music albums, eBooks, audiobooks and comics. hoopla digital partners with public libraries across North America to provide patrons with online and mobile access to dynamic digital content. The service’s catalogue already includes titles from DC Comics, Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics, BOOM! Comics and more.
hoopla digital’s innovative Action View creates one-of-a-kind immersive digital reading by allowing for full page and panel-by-panel views of comics and illustrations.
There is no waiting to borrow titles on hoopla digital since on-demand content can be enjoyed by multiple patrons simultaneously. Patrons who use hoopla digital also avoid library late fees as digital content borrowing periods simply expire without charges.
hoopla digital has partnerships with more than 860 public library systems across North America including Toronto Public Library, Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Calgary Public Library and The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
New comic books will be added to the service weekly. The service is available only to patrons of participating public libraries.
Budget-crunched librarians will soon be receiving some respite thanks to a new program from Papercutz. The publisher announced today that they will be supplying 100 free copies of Nickelodeon Magazine to libraries that support comics programming. It’s part of an effort by the publisher to fuel a growing trend in the school and public library space– “ComicCons” and other events focused on the fastest growing category in publishing – graphic novels.
Comic book conventions are well-known for a variety of attractions including creator appearances, costumes and, of course, exclusive promotional material from publishers. While many librarians have reached out to the comics creative community for appearances at events and patrons have picked up the costuming challenge, promotional items have been handled on an ad hoc basis, depending on the largesse of publishers or individual creators. This new program ensures that no comics-themed event will have to do without giveaways that incentivize reading.
Interested librarians simply need to contact Papercutz VP of Marketing, Sven Larsen six to eight weeks before their event. As soon as Papercutz receives a librarian’s request (including details of the planned event) they will dispatch 100 copies of the latest issue of Nickelodeon Magazine absolutely free (the library just has to pay for shipping).