Since Janet Jackson’s unscheduled unveiling at Super Bowl XXXVIII, the topic of obscenity in the media has been a heated one. The scrutiny the graphic novel industry has found itself under was the focus of the Controversial Comics in Conservative America panel Saturday at WizardWorld: Philadelphia.
Charles Brownstein, director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, opened up the panel explaining how the role of the CBLDF has changed over the years, touching upon the cases of Boiled Angel author Mike Diana (found guilty on three obscenity charges) and comic shop owner Gordon Lee (arrested for the distribution of Alternative Comics #2, which features a nude depiction of Pablo Picasso in a non-sexual context, to a minor).
When describing Diana’s plight, Brownstein said, “As far as his sentence, he was unable to draw in his own home, he was unable to go where children congregate. They treated these lines on paper as if Michael was a menace to society.”
The author of Deep Fried, Jason Yungbluth discussed his frustrations in post 9/11 United States, “A newspaper that claimed to be cutting-edge material with a hip readership didn’t know how to deal with homosexuals, anything that touches on race, conversations about the war. This ultimately got me fired.”
Doug Paskiewicz (Arsenic Lullabye) offered an alternate viewpoint saying, “I think it’s a little disingenuous to put out something cutting-edge and be surprised or shocked when people are shocked by it.
“Put out a story that you think is good, that’s your job. If you’re making it controversial just to sell you’re going the wrong way. My comics are controversial because that’s what I think is funny.”
The creator of Freedom Unleashed, Craig Blake, made the argument that the ones with the problems with content in comics aren’t the comic readers, “Comic book readers are some of the most liberal people out there, it’s the people who don’t read comic books who are opening one up and freaking out.”
Paskiewicz touched upon the best defense for questionable contact by saying, “The best defense is to have something to say. Say something good and you’ll have like-minded people standing up for you.”
The controversy over the depiction of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in cartoons and comics was discussed by Jason Yungbluth. He described his personal show of solidarity, “I did a cartoon showing a soldier who had no arms, no legs, and no head right next to caricature of Mohammad drawn to look like a cow who was pouring bacon down his throat.”
To close up the panel, Craig Blake answered a question about people assuming comics are for kids by saying, “Nowadays, I think most comics aren’t for kids.”