Friday, October 14, 2011
CBLDF Presents Liberty Annual 2011
I just got done reading this year's Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Presents Liberty Annual 2011. I always tried to make sure I was a member back when we ran Joy's Japanimation, because a lot of the cases where a retailer is being arrested for selling a comic book, it turns out to be a manga book. And these are always cases where the books are sold to adults. So being an anime and manga store, I always felt we were a prime target. I remember putting the CLBDF phone number in our rolodex-- I wrote on the bottom of the card, "Let's hope we never have to use it."
Since leaving the comic-selling industry, I've still made the occasional donation, usually at the urging of Peter David's blog. I bought More Fund Comics when it came out, but somehow never got around to Even More Fund Comics. It's still an important cause-- comic books are always a target because the public still views them as kids stuff, even though kids don't read comics anymore. (Seriously, according to a poll at Comic Book Resources, only 5.19% of comic book readers are under 17. The largest group was 30-40 year-olds. It's part of the reason that the comic book industry is shrinking-- there's been no new generation of readers since the 90's. But I digress.)
So I'll confess by saying I bought this comic because it has a new Grendel story in it by Matt Wagner. And yeah, it always feels good to know that I'm helping the CBLDF at the same time.
What I didn't expect was for it to possibly be one of the best anthologies I've ever read.
Seriously, there's not a bad story in the bunch. And while the main topic is of course about free speech, it covers such a range of related topics from Free Speech to Separation of Church and State to the "It Gets Better" campaign that it never gets dull. It actually felt downright inspirational.
For starters, I was pleasantly surprised to learn in Bob Shreck's introduction that he's bi too. Bob Shreck was art director for Comico, which means I always saw his name in the Robotech and Grendel comics back in the 80's, and from there he moved to Dark Horse (more Grendel for me) and Oni Comics (where I read various Kevin Smith comics). So his name is one that has always kept showing up in my comic reading history and that I've always associated with quality books. So as a bi guy, it makes me very happy that he's willing to casually out himself as part of this project. Hence the focus on the "It Gets Better" stories.
Extra points has to go to Carla Speed McNeil's piece "Dunce," which ties it all together very strongly, where she talks about the frustrations she's run into even trying to talk about her son who has Down's Syndrome, or Trisomy 21 as is apparently the new PC thing to call it. The problem is that terms used to describe people with learning problems immediately get turned into insults, so how can you talk about the problem when the words that weren't intended to be offensive now are? To me this is the comic that ties the entire book together, because it's shows how people being offended by words that have been twisted to bullying lead to both outside and self-censorship.
Another gem is J. Michael Straczynski & Kevin Sacco's "Separation of Church And State - The Best Friend the Church Ever Had!" where he explains that because the Founding Fathers specifically stated in the treaty of Tripoli that "the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion," it allowed for all denominations of Christianity to grow without the fears of conflict with each other such as the whole Catholic vs Protestant mess. We always hear about how Separation of Church and State has allowed all religions to practice here, but it never occurred to me that it also saved us from the infighting that Christianity has faced in the past in the UK. This piece should be required reading in schools.
I could go on and on, but really, you should just buy this comic and read it. Heck, I'd buy this as a monthly book. I'll certainly be buying every CBLDF Liberty Annual from now on, and that'll help give me that reminder to donate to the cause as well.
And incidentally, the CBLDF is currently handling a case where a guy entering Canada brought a hentai manga comic with him, and was arrested at customs and is now facing a prison term of up to one year. I can't imagine being jailed just because someone objected to what you were reading. The CBLDF is paying for his defense and they could use help. You can make a donation at cbldf.org. It doesn't matter how small, every bit helps.