Defending Free Speech: A Brief History of The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

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Contrary to popular belief, the most important organization in the Comic Industry is neither DC or Marvel. No, it's not Dark Horse or Image either. It's the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF). 

Look, I hate politics as much as anybody else wanting to retain their sanity does, but Freedom of Speech and Animal Rights are causes I truly care about. You would be surprised by how many seemingly unrelated issues actually do involve the First Amendment. As a writer and an artist I can't just stand on the sidelines. 

Comic Books have had a long history of battling censorship, and with Political Correctness at it's peak strength (we hope), the war wages on. In 1954, the Comics Code Authority was founded after senate hearings were conducted followinthe publication of Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent

The book, in which Wertham "manipulated, overstated, compromised and fabricated evidence" (according to an investigation by Carol L.Tilley) successfully caused widespread hysteria and panic in the American Public by claiming that Comic Books were responsible for juvenile delinquency. 

The Comics Code Authority was a fascist-level censorship organization that abused it's power, freedom of speech and the artistry of the medium in general during it reign. If you don't believe me, here I have produced the actual guidelines that were enforced by them:

"Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.

If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.

Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.

Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates a desire for emulation.

In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.

Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gunplay, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.

No comic magazine shall use the words "horror" or "terror" in its title.

All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.

All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.

Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly, nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.

Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.

Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.

Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.

Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable.

Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.

Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at nor portrayed. Rape scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.

Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.

Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.

Nudity with meretricious purpose and salacious postures shall not be permitted in the advertising of any product; clothed figures shall never be presented in such a way as to be offensive or contrary to good taste or morals."

The CCA effectively killed EC Comics, which was a trailblazing juggernaut of the industry specializing in Horror, up until the CCA's founding in 1954. Unable to adapt with the ridiculous imposed rules (It probably is difficult to make horror comics when you can't but the words "Horror" or "Terror" on the cover). 

All EC Comics Publications were ended less than a year later, except MAD which was converted into a Magazine to avoid CCA abuse and is still published to this day.

During the mid to late 1980's, writers and artists were fed-up with the code and started backlashing against it. 

Not coincidentally, the medium's best works ever were produced during this time and thus  began the start of the "Modern Age" of Comic Books. Around this time the CBLDF was also (not coincidentally) founded. 

Since the CCA's decline and eventual fall, the CBLDF has defended the right all artists have to Free Speech. 

Nothing that goes on in the "real world" is too taboo for art. Thankfully, many people realize this. Unfortunately, many also don't. The organization (which I plan on joining myself later today) still continually proves itself useful in this day and age. 

Most recently, in May of 2009 a 38-year old comic collector named Christopher Handley from Iowa was sentenced to 6 months in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release, followed by 5 years of probation after being arrested for owning comic books, comic books depicting sexual situations involving minors. His lawyer was advised by the CBLDF. 

Explain to me, how there is a victim in this situation (other than Handley). While seeing a child sexually abused in any way is nauseating, it happens. If it happens in the world, we're just supposed to ignore it and hope it goes away? 

And anyone that references these awful things will be in serious trouble? Also, how can you sexually abuse a drawing? Court documents revealed that Handley owned no actual (photographic) pornography and had no criminal record (that is, before this mess). 

We need this organization more than ever now in the age of the millennial.

Bobby Chrisafis is an aspiring Comic Artist and Writer who idolizes Batman and has always cited Frank Miller as his favorite Writer and Artist since the first time he laid down The Dark Knight Returns and realized his calling. He was euphorically happy when he finally met his hero, Mr. Miller (see profile picture). Outside of comics, he is an avid fan of the New York Yankees and Oakland Raiders. He also loves Punk Rock and listening to it way too loud.
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© GONG, Inc. All rights reserved