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 | 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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Can’t Wait for Comics | ‘The Variants,’ ‘Public Doman,’ ‘Mindset’ and more

New comics and graphic novels arrive this week from Gail Simone, Phil Noto, Tim King, Chip Zdarsky, Clay Mann, Mike Mignola, Joe Satriani, Alex Graham and more.

Welcome to Can’t Wait for Comics, your guide to what comics are arriving in comic book stores, bookstores and on digital. This week brings a new Jessica Jones series written by Gail Simone, a deluxe edition of the excellent yet controversial Gender Queer and more.

I’ve pulled out some of the highlights below, but for the complete list of everything you might find at your local comic shop and on digital this week, you’ll want to check out one or more of the following:

As a reminder, things can change and what you find on the above lists may differ from what’s actually arriving in your local shop. So always check with your comics retailer for the final word on availability.

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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 | ‘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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Quick Hits | AWA, GlobalComix partner on ‘Lesser Evils’

Plus: news on United Workers of Seven Seas, censorship attempts in Michigan, FurnaceCon and more.

Brooklyn’s local BKReader spotlights Lesser Evils, a new comic series from AWA Studios that is set in the NY borough. The comic debuted digitally earlier this week on GlobalComix, as part of a “Global First” localization partnership between the online comics platform and AWA. GlobalComix plans to release it in multiple languages, including English, Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian and Hindi.

“It’s not just going digital first, it’s going Global First,” said Christopher Carter, founder and CEO of GlobalComix, in a press release. “We believe that when companies go digital first, they are no longer constrained to the same up-front investment costs of physical market validation, distribution, supply chain, required for localization and global audiences.”

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Three Things | Anders Nilsen, Johnnie Christmas, Maia Kobabe

Here are three things to buy, to watch and to listen to today.

Three Things spotlights, as the title states, three things from comics today. It’ll be three things with links, no more, no less. This is the fourth one in the series, collect them all.

1. To buy: Tongue #5, the yearly series by Anders Nilsen

Anders Nilsen, the award-winning creator of Big Questions and Rage of Poseidon, has released the fifth issue of Tongues, his self-published comic that features Prometheus, Teddy Roosevelt and a whole lot more. It’s … kind of hard to describe, actually, but it’s a labor of love for the creator, with emphasis on the labor.

In a post on his blog, Nilsen details how much work and time went into this fifth issue — and into every issue — and he reveals that he has about five more issues left to complete. For the process junkies, he also goes deep in how the sausage gets made…

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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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‘Gender Queer’ tops the ALA’s ‘Most Challenged Books of 2021’ list

Half the books on 2021’s top 10 list were targeted for including LGBTQIA+ content.

In a year that saw the highest number of book challenges in libraries and schools since the ALA began compiling data on the topic, the graphic novel Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe topped the American Library Association’s list of most challenged books for 2021.

More than 700 book challenges — which are reported attempts by citizens and parents to have books removed from their public library or a school library — were recorded by the ALA, a record number since they began sharing data and making this list in 2000. This resulted in almost 1,600 individual book challenges or removals, as some challenges were against multiple titles.

“The 729 challenges tracked by ALA represent the highest number of attempted book bans since we began compiling these lists 20 years ago,” said ALA President Patricia “Patty” Wong. “We support individual parents’ choices concerning their child’s reading and believe that parents should not have those choices dictated by others. Young people need to have access to a variety of books from which they can learn about different perspectives. So, despite this organized effort to ban books, libraries remain ready to do what we always have: make knowledge and ideas available so people are free to choose what to read.”

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Ohioan launches ‘Banned Books Box’ subscription service

The first month’s box will include a copy of ‘Gender Queer,’ along with a lapel pin designed by creator Maia Kobabe.

Ariel Hakim, a librarian former library reference associate in Northeast Ohio, has put a timely spin on the subscription box idea with the Banned Books Box, which delivers banned books and graphic novels to your door each month.

And December’s selection couldn’t come at a better time; it’ll feature Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, a graphic novel that has been making headlines recently in Virginia, Michigan and Florida as school districts face a barrage of criticism from overzealous parents for including it on their library shelves. (Kobabe recently responded to critics in a write-up published by the Washington Post).

“Maia wrote this graphic novel that parents of high schoolers have found in the school library and been completely vocal about how offended they are by some of the images,” Hakim told Cleveland Scene. “Maia wrote it to explain to family members about what non-binary means. Maia came out as queer and then several years as non-binary. When I decided that this was the book I wanted to use, I emailed the agent to see about getting signed books, and we got some book plates, and then Maia designed an enamel pin that will be one of the pieces of the book box. I like the book a lot, and I think it’s entertaining and educational. I love memoirs. Just reading anyone else’s story written in a sincere way is something I will always enjoy.”

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Comics Lowdown | ‘Gender Queer’ creator responds

Plus: More book challenges, creator interviews, and recommended reading.

In a thoughtful op-ed in the Washington Post, Maia Kobabe responds to critics who have challenged her book Gender Queer in school libraries. She writes that when she was growing up, she turned to books to help her understand something she couldn’t put into words, and that she wrote Gender Queer primarily for her own family, who were supportive but also puzzled. And she ends with this:

Three weeks after I first heard about the “Gender Queer” ban at Fairfax County Public Schools, I received this message:

“You probably won’t ever see this but I am a queer FCPS student! My mom and I read your book. I loved it! I related to almost everything you said. I felt so understood and not alone. I think my mom understands me better and I’m more confident in confiding in her since she read your book. Thank you so much for creating your memoir!”

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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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