Virginia judge dismisses case against ‘Gender Queer’

The court dismissed it based on First Amendment and due process grounds.

Circuit Court Judge Pamela Baskervill has dismissed the case that sought to label the graphic novel Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and the novel A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. K. Maas as obscene and illegal to sell.

The judge found that the statute pursuant to which the petitions were filed violated the First Amendment and the constitutional right to due process. You can read the judge’s full decision here.

Jeff Trexler from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund served as Kobabe’s co-counsel and offered more details on the decision in a lengthy Twitter thread.

“Normally an obscenity statute works the way you’d expect a criminal statute to work: a person produces, possesses, distributes, etc. certain material, gets arrested on obscenity charges, gets convicted or found not guilty,” he posted. “Virginia Code § 18.2-384 is different. It provides that a citizen or attorney of any VA county/city in which sale or commercial distribution of a book occurs can initiate a proceeding to have the book declared obscene. When that happens, the judge can issue an order to show cause that the book is not obscene & can also issue a temporary restraining order against the sale or distribution of the book!”

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Quick Hits | Rachel Pollack hospitalized

Rest in peace, Lily Renée. Plus news on IDW Media, censorship in Missouri, Paul Allor and more.

Creators | Former Doom Patrol writer Rachel Pollack has been hospitalized and is currently in the ICU, according to a GoFundMe page started by Patricia Nolan. The page is seeking financial help for Pollack’s health care. “If she is able to go home, she will need 24-hour care. Up to now, we haven’t needed your help. It is time now,” the message reads. Pollack, who is also a novelist and Tarot expert, in addition to writing comics, most recently worked on the Comixology Originals title The Never Ending Party.

Passings | Lily Renée, who worked as a penciller and inker on titles for Fiction House and St. Johns Publications back in the 1940s and 1950s, has passed away at the age of 101. Trina Robbins reported the news on Facebook after hearing from Renée’s son Rick. “She died peacefully at home, as was her wish, yesterday after living a full life of more than 101 years. There is a time for all of us and her death comes on the heels of the birth of her third great grandchild earlier this year,” he said in his message.

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Quick Hits | Graphic novels face scrutiny in Texas schools

Plus: Todd McFarlane wants ‘Batman/Spawn’ to be the biggest comic of the century! ‘Still Alive’ wins another award! And a look at Alan Moore’s funny funnybooks!

Book challenges | A police officer employed by Katy ISD, a suburb of Houston, Texas, removed a copy of the graphic novel Flamer by Mike Curato from high school shelves after a woman filed a criminal complaint alleging the district was providing “harmful” material to minors. The removal occurred last month, when school wasn’t in session, and was later returned to shelves after police concluded “the claim was unsubstantiated.”

The book had previously been challenged, reviewed and approved for high schools by a committee after earlier challenges by parents — although it was removed from junior high shelves at the time. The woman also threatened to report the district to the Texas Rangers if they didn’t remove the book.

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Quick Hits | Hotel strike impacts Comic-Con events

Plus: Rick Veitch, Noah Van Sciver, Jeff Smith, Coagula and the infamous Hall H line!

Conventions | Both Voice of San Diego and ICv2 report on the workers’ strike at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel in San Diego, which is adjacent to the convention center where Comic-Con International is held every year and where many CCI events and panels are held. According to Voice of San Diego, workers and management have been negotiating for months, but could not come to an agreement.

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Quick Hits | Spider-Man joins the Comic-Con Museum Character Hall of Fame

Plus: News on Danica Novgorodoff, Lucy Knisley, ‘Gender Queer’ and more.

Events | The Comic-Con Museum has announced the latest character to be inducted into their Character Hall of Fame. Spider-Man will join Batman, Pac-Man and Wonder Woman. The induction ceremony will take place on July 20 during Comic-Con International. The museum will also host a Spider-Man exhibit, “Beyond Amazing,” starting on July 1, which will showcase art, costumes and interactive experiences featuring everyone’s favorite web-slinger.

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Quick Hits | Artist Ken Kelly passes away

Plus: News on Popeye’s new artist, Free Comic Book Day and more.

Passings | Fantasy artist Ken Kelly, whose art appeared on rock albums, book covers, magazines, video games and comics, passed away June 3 at the age of 76. Kelly was heavily in demand as a painter in the 1970s and painted the covers of two albums by the band KISS — Destroyer and Love Gun. Comic fans in the 1970s would know his work on covers for The Spirit, Vampirella and Creepy, and in the 1990s for some of the Star Wars titles when Dark Horse held the license. A cause of death has not bee reported.

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Quick Hits | ‘Gender Queer’ remains at the center of Virginia controversy

The American Booksellers for Free Expression responds as politicians continue trying to ban ‘Gender Queer.’ Also: comiXology’s app is ‘annoying,’ the first graphic novel to win the Jhalak Prize and more.

Censorship | The American Booksellers for Free Expression “strongly condemns” a recent decision by a judge in Virginia that the graphic novel Gender Queer and the book A Court of Mist and Fury might be “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors.” Two politicians in Virginia are attempting to restrict access to the book by minors not only in libraries, but also in bookstores like Barnes & Noble.

Activism | In Washington State, students at Walla Walla High School responded to attempts to ban certain books like Gender Queer from the school library by forming a Banned Book Club. There plan is to read one “banned” book per month, and a local bookstore is giving them a discount on the books they choose.

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Virginia politicians seek restraining order to prevent Barnes & Noble from selling ‘Gender Queer’ to minors

The move comes a week after the Virginia Beach school board removed the book from library shelves.

Virginia State Delegate and lawyer is seeking a restraining order against Barnes and Noble and Virginia Beach Schools “to enjoin them from selling or loaning” the graphic novel Gender Queer and the novel A Court of Mist and Fury to minors without parent consent, according to Book Riot.

On his Facebook page, Tim Anderson, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, says he is seeking the restraining order on behalf of his client, Tommy Altman, who is currently running for U.S. Congress in Virginia.

“Today, the Virginia Beach Circuit Court has found probable cause that the books Gender Queer and a Court of Mist and Fury are obscene to unrestricted viewing by minors,” Anderson posted. “My client, Tommy Altman, has now directed my office to seek a restraining order against Barnes and Noble and Virginia Beach Schools to enjoin them from selling or loaning these books to minors without parent consent.”

The move follows a decision from last week by the Virginia Beach school board to remove Gender Queer from shelves in the school district’s libraries.

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Comics Lowdown | Marvel editors participate in #DisneyWalkout

Plus: ‘Persepolis’ under fire in Pennsylvania school district! David Gallaher, real-life superhero! News on Behemoth, Zestworld, Julie Doucet and more!

Marvel employees joined their colleagues from Pixar, Lucasfilm and other Disney-owned divisions in a walk-out on Tuesday to protest the company’s response to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education act, which has become to be known as the “Don’t Say Gay bill.”

The bill bans lessons about sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade and prohibits lessons in other grades unless they are “age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate.” Critics say the law could stigmatize LGBTQ+ students, and lead to bullying and attacks. The bill has yet to be signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, but it’s just a matter of time, as the governor has expressed his support for it.

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Comics Lowdown | Creators file class action suit against Action Lab Entertainment

Plus: News on TOON Books, Image Comics, Archie’s new editor-in-chief and more!

Nearly 40 creators have signed on for a class action lawsuit against Action Lab Entertainment and Action Lab president Bryan Seaton. Action Lab has published a long list of titles over the years, including Spencer & Locke, Princeless, Jupiter Jet, Midnight Tiger, Molly Danger and many others.

According to ClassAction.org, the 46-page complaint “contends that although Action Lab promised to print, promote and market creators’ works, report quarterly sales and income numbers, properly maintain social media accounts, and generally make a reasonable effort to sell comics, the company has largely done none of these things and even failed to inform creators when its office shut down ‘without reason.’”

Creators listed in the complaint include David Pepose, Rylend Grant, Jorge Santiago Jr., Jeremy Whitley, Ken Marcus, Tom Rogers and many more. You can read the full legal complaint here.

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Florida school district removes Telgemeier’s ‘Drama,’ 15 other books from shelves

‘Drama’ is once again at the center of school drama as the often-banned book is targeted by a conservative political group; this comes a few weeks after ‘Maus’ was banned in Tennessee.

Raina Telgemeier’s Drama, one of the most challenged books of the last decade, has been “quarantined” by a school district after a conservative political group complained it contained “obscene material.”

Polk County Public Schools removed 16 books from shelves and placed them in “quarantine” — that’s actually how they referred to it; I hope they gave it a mask — after County Citizens Defending Freedom complained that they violated two Florida statutes related to distributing obscene or harmful materials to children.

“While it is not the role of my office to approve/evaluate instructional or resource materials at that level, I do have an obligation to review any allegation that a crime is being or has been committed,” Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Frederick Heid wrote in the email to the Ledger. “It is also my obligation to provide safeguards to protect our employees. The district will be taking the following steps to ensure that we address this issue honestly, fairly, and transparently.” 

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Comics Lowdown | More ‘Gender Queer’ controversy

Plus: Tanzanian cartoonist arrested, NYCC manga news, and more!

Gender Queer Challenged and Defended: The Brevard, Florida, Public Schools have removed a book from the Melbourne High School public library because it contained “adult images that have no place in education.” While they did not name the book, Florida Today speculates that it was Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer, which was the subject of a recent discussion on a local Facebook page. Superintendent Mike Mullins said that “BPS staff immediately agreed that this book violates our guidelines and that it has no place in our school district,” and he added that he has instructed the staff to check that there are no other such books in the school libraries. Gender Queer was also removed from the Fairfax, Virginia, public school libraries, but local station WTOP reports that students have pushed back: Over 400 students from across the district have signed a letter protesting the removal of the book. And in Williamstown, Michigan, parents are objecting to their children getting library cards because the book is in the local public library, according to the Lansing CityPulse.

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