Here's a series of posts I've been making all week (plus a little extra - it's a long list) elsewhere on the web in recognition of Banned Books Week + the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund folks. Images are culled from slides that I show to various classes, and I dutifully hauled a tote-bag o' books with samples to pass around and read and prompt discussion. I have some upcoming gigs in grade schools (the annual round of show & tells) and related to teaching/using comics in public education, so these issues of appropriateness and judicious editing versus banning and censorship are never far from mind, especially when contrasted against the normal venue of college-level and adult audiences. There was a time when I was banned from a school on account of a poor choice made that I thought was funny - to some degree these choices still play out in my work today. Finding that personal balance isn't a clear-cut case of conscience, it's more like a tight-rope walker it involves constant correction/overcorrection between opposing extremes... with a lot of wiggle room in-between.
Take this blog for example: 98% of the time fine for classroom usage, excepting the occasion I swear, or show figure drawings of nudes, either of which in some instances is enough to trigger filters and therefore render the entire site unreadable. Then there's the content of individual cartoons, which in many eyes is sometimes seen as tasteless (or pointless, but that's another issue) or even over the line - there will always be that one particular panel that costs you a reader, above and beyond the Dixie Chick Effect of ostracizing half of your friends, fans & family by taking a stand on any issue.
Given the inherent nature of comedy, there's really never any safe ground and certainly no sole perspective from which to cast judgement, and by some definitions a crucial aspect of art is indeed to "comfort the afflicted/afflict the comfortable," so someone's bound to take offense at something. What for today's hipster youth is lame and boring material, is to another generation still shocking or even offensive. And the reverse, more often than not, can be equally fraught with potential minefields - much of what I was exposed to as mainstream humor when growing up is most decidedly not politically correct anymore, which in many ways is progress both on a personal level and on a societal scale.
In the end though it will always come back upon the creator to make the call and define or defend the choices made, both aesthetic and editorial.
More below the fold...
“A book without potty humor is like a banana split without hot fudge. It can still be good, I suppose, but you kinda get the feeling that something is missing.” - Dav Pilkey (creator of Captain Underpants)
“I'm more interested in characters who are a little difficult.” -Daniel Clowes (Ice Haven/Eightball #22)
“We wrote the book to help parents teach children about same-sex parent families. It's no more an argument in favor of human gay relationships than it is a call for children to swallow their fish whole or sleep on rocks.” - Parnell/Richardson (And Tango Makes Three, illustrated by Henry Cole)
“To me, freedom entitles you to do something, not to not do something.” - Shel Silverstein
"Monsters do not behave themselves - that's the whole idea!" - Rat Creature (Jeff Smith, Bone)
“Those things aren’t wild out here, are they?”
“No, not wild. They’re free.”
– Pride Of Baghdad (Brian K. Vaughan/Niko Henrichon)
“It's fear that makes us lose our conscience. It's also what transforms us into cowards.”
- Marjane Satrapi, The Complete Persepolis
“Grown-ups desperately need to feel safe, and then they project onto the kids. But what none of us seem to realize is how smart kids are. They don’t like what we write for them, what we dish up for them, because it’s vapid, so they’ll go for the hard words, they’ll go for the hard concepts, they’ll go for the stuff where they can learn something. Not didactic things, but passionate things.”
- Maurice Sendak