For this third day of Banned Books Week, we are featuring comics by author Alan Moore. Many of Moore’s comics have been banned or challenged – we are discussing 3 today – and Moore himself has been outspoken about censorship issues. In an interview in The Comics Journal, he said:
“I really do not think that we should restrict information to children. And I think that, basically, I know that there are a lot of parents that don’t agree, would not agree with me upon that, and of course they have the right, but as long as it’s kept upon a parental level, I’m not too worried. If parents are making the decisions that their children can or cannot read this sort of book in the home, that’s fair enough. The parents can take the consequences of that. It won’t necessarily stop the children reading it, but at least it’s a transaction between the child and the parent and it’s the parent taking responsibility for their children, which is fair enough. I take a more liberal stance in that I prefer to let my children read anything, but I want to know what they’re reading, and if there’s anything they come across which might be disturbing, then I’m always on hand to talk about it with them. Which, to me, seems to be the responsible attitude…They [parents] shouldn’t hand over that responsibility to an outside body, and along with it, hand over the responsibility of all those other parents who have been finding it quite easy to take an actual personal interest in what their children are reading and to monitor their reading habits themselves.” (LINK)
Our first Alan Moore comic is called Watchmen, a title many are familiar with, and is read by student Juliana Molina. From the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund:
“[This] alternate history in which a group of retired crimefighters investigate and attempt to stop a plot to murder them has been praised by critics and fans alike since its 1986 debut. It received a Hugo Award in 1988 and was instrumental in garnering more respect and shelf space for comics and graphic novels in libraries and mainstream bookstores.
The inclusion of the compiled Watchmen in school library collections has been challenged by parents at least twice, according to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. There is no media coverage of these challenges to be found online, but OIF helpfully provided us with a few more details from their database. The first Watchmen complaint, at a high school in Harrisonburg, Virginia, was reported in October of 2001. OIF removes specific identifying details from the information it releases to the public, but the high school library in Harrisonburg holds a copy of the book, so it appears the challenge was unsuccessful. The second challenge, from May of 2004, took place at a school serving grades 6-12 in Florida, but the city and outcome are unknown.” (LINK)
Our second Alan Moore comic is Black Dossier: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, read by student Rachel Carkhuff. From the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund:
“The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Kevin O’Neill, is a sort of meta “sourcebook” for the popular series of the same title. Rife with literary and popular culture mashups, the book follows League members Mina Harker and Allan Quatermain as they seek the Black Dossier, an intelligence file that covers the founding and development of the crime-fghting cabal. Excerpts from the dossier, including a map, postcards, a lost Shakespeare play, and a sequel to the 18th century pornographic novel Fanny Hill, are interspersed with the framework of story. The book received a starred review in Publishers Weekly and came in second on Time’s list of the Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2007.
In 2009, two employees of the Jessamine County Public Library in Kentucky were fired after they took it upon themselves to withhold the library’s copy of Black Dossier from circulation. Sharon Cook, a full-time Library Assistant who objected to sex scenes in the book, initially followed the library’s established challenge procedure available to all patrons. She requested that the book be moved from the Graphic Novel section (which she thought was too close to Young Adult) into Adult Fiction. The committee considered her challenge and found that the book was properly shelved. In response, Cook checked the book out of the library and continued to renew it for about a year, thereby making it unavailable to members of the public. When a patron hold eventually prevented Cook from renewing the book, she used her staff privileges to determine that the requester was an 11-year-old girl. At that time Cook confided in a co-worker, part-time employee Beth Boisvert, who in turn cancelled the hold so the patron would not receive the book.
Cook and Boisvert considered the material in the Black Dossier pornographic, but the book has never met the standard for obscenity. Neither Cook nor Boisvert were librarians (despite what some sources indicate), and they superseded their authority and committed censorship in taking the actions they did. All library employees should strive to uphold the American Library Association Code of Ethics and the Library Bill of Rights (not to mention theBill of Rights that includes the First Amendment). Instead, Cook and Boisvert violated several tenets of both, and their actions resulted in their termination.” (LINK)
Finally, Support Staff Shawn Fellows reads From Hell.
While there are multiple reports of this book being challenged and banned, we were unable to find anything verifiable. The content is certainly controversial, and the American Library Association estimates that 70-80% of all book bans go unreported.
So keep reading those Alan Moore comics, if you want!
“I’m not going to follow my kids around. But I know that they’ve got nothing that they’re going to hide from me. Because there’s no reason to hide anything from me in terms of what they read. I’ve tried to establish a sensible relationship with my children, where there is mutual openness. Where they are allowed to exhaust their curiosity, and if they do, say for example, look at an issue of Zap Comics, because the color looks pretty, then I can say to them. “Yeah, well, there are a couple of stories in there which you might think were funny, but there’s also some stuff by S. Clay Wilson with men having their penises chopped off and it’s pretty horrible, and you can see all the veins in the middle, and you’ll probably find it a bit sickening, and you might not want to read it just before you go to bed.” In which case, they’ll either say, “Well. I think I’ll read it anyway.” or, more often than not they’ll say, “Well, in that case I’ll read something else” But if I said, “No, you can’t read it,” then that would probably mean that they would be sneaking into the bedroom in a week’s time, and looking at it. And then they wouldn’t be able to tell me that they’d looked at it, and they wouldn’t be able to discuss their reactions to it with me. That was the way I was brought up, Gary. You know, we weren’t allowed to mention that sort of stuff, so we did it anyway, and then coped with it ourselves. Which I don’t think is necessarily the most efficient way of doing it. So, in answer to your question, do I not think there should be any restraints on what children are sold, in terms of, well, I think that children have got as much rights as anybody else.” (Alan Moore – LINK)