It’s almost TOO on the nose that three book challenges involving graphic novels came up during Banned Books Week, but that’s exactly what has happened.
Katy, Texas: The Katy school board has canceled a virtual appearance by Jerry Craft, after an online petition claimed that his middle-grade graphic novels New Kid and Class Act promote Critical Race Theory. TV news station Click2Houston has a good overview of what happened: After a parent complained, the school district put the Zoom visit on hold and pulled the books from the library for review, per their policy; they will review the books within 15 days and are trying to reschedule the visit outside of the instructional day. Kara Yorio at School Library Journal has more details on the backstory: The petition (since removed) urged the school board to cancel Craft’s appearance, claiming that “these books … are wrought with critical race theory in the form of teaching children that their white privilege inherently comes with microaggressions which must be kept in check.” New Kid has won numerous awards and was the first graphic novel to win the Newbery Medal; both books are best-sellers.
Fairfax, Virginia: The Washington Post reports that Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer was one of two books removed from the libraries of high schools in Fairfax County Public Schools, the largest school district in Virginia. Speakers at a raucous school board meeting claimed the books contained explicit sexual imagery, “homoerotic” content, and depictions of pedophilia (both authors disputed the latter contention; in the case of Gender Queer, the image in question was based on one found on ancient Greek pottery). The school district has removed the books while a committee reviews them and determines whether they are suitable for school libraries. The publisher of Gender Queer, Oni Press, gives it a 16+ rating.
Gillette, Wyoming: Campbell County Attorney Mitchell Damsky is considering pursuing charges against the Campbell County Public Library after a local couple, working with a pastor, filed a complaint with the county sheriff, claiming that five books, including the graphic novel Sex Is a Funny Word, violated state child-sex laws. “Personally, as a parent, I find the material to be just inappropriate for children and disgusting,” Damsky said. “But as a lawyer I’m sworn to uphold the Constitution and that’s why we are dealing with it with a fine-toothed comb.” Exactly who they would prosecute is not entirely clear, and no one has spoken to the library about it yet.
Below the Fold
Supply Chain Blues: At the New York Times, Elizabeth A. Harris has a good summary of the many problems that book publishers and distributors are facing right now: Shortages (of both paper and people), shipping delays, and, ironically, the upswing in popularity of print books have slowed down book production and distribution to the point where print copies of many best-sellers are unavailable, while new title launches are being postponed because the books simply aren’t there. These problems affect comics both directly (Spike Trotman of Iron Circus Tweeted about the delays she is seeing) and indirectly, as costs increase and midlist sales take a hit. That one-two punch may lead publishers to raise prices and take fewer risks in the foreseeable future.
Handy Hellboy Reference: Dave Lartigue has compiled an index to the Mignolaverse, listing every story, where it falls chronologically in the universe of Mike Mignola’s comics and in terms of publication date, and where you can find it.
Creator Essay: Scarenthood creator Nick Roche talks about his new comic, which features a group of ordinary parents trying to beat back the monster they have accidentally released from under their kids’ preschool, and why everyday life with kids is can be as scary as any robot battle.
Deals: Jason Shiga Tweets that he has signed a three-book deal with Abrams for a series of interactive graphic novels. Anyone who has seen Shiga’s 2010 book Meanwhile knows this is something he’s very good at. The books will come out one each year, with the first one, Leviathan, due out in Summer 2022. Check the Twitter thread for his enthusiastic description!
The Biz: There’s a seismic shift going on in comics, but you may not notice if you don’t work for a publisher, a distributor, or a comic shop: Three different distributors are shipping comics this week. Milton Griepp, a veteran of the distribution wars of the 1980s and 1990s and the editor of ICv2, compares the three distributors and points out what to look for in the months to come. (For background: Marvel announced in March that it has moved monthly comics distribution to Penguin Random House, and IDW has signed on with them as well, although that shift won’t take place till next June. DC dropped Diamond when they shut down during the pandemic and shifted to two other services; one of them shut down but the other, Lunar, is now DC’s chief distributor and has added Scout, Ahoy, and Z2 to its list of clients.)