Comics and graphic novels are vivid and leave little to the imagination. Comics are widely read by children and adults alike. So, it becomes all the more important for the content to be ideal for both the parties. Unlike novels there are a few more sensitive and divisive issues than that of censorship with comics. In recent years balancing the risk of children seeing extreme violence or graphic sexual scenes against the danger of blanket bans inhibiting free artistic expression has become a huge issue for both comic creators, the stores and libraries which supply their creations to us, and us ourselves as readers. It is therefore not a bed of roses for comic book creators. We bring you a list of 7 comics that were banned because of the content they displayed.
1) Batman: the killing joke
The visual depiction of what actually transpires is enough to convince the reader that the flak that this comic received is legitimate. The comic features the joker breaking out from arkham (yet again!) and reaching Commissioner Gordon’s House. He then goes on to torture Barbara (whilst she is naked) in front of her father who is also naked! The comic is too visual and too disturbing. However, the creator defends himself by saying he made it out to be more philosophical. If there was ever such a thing.
Jeff Smith’s all age series wasn’t spared too! This popular comic character seemingly promoted smoking and drinking. Although Smith begs to differ, the American Library Association received several hundred complaints about the same. Apparently a lovable character indulging in the occasional cigarette did not go down very well with the parents!
3) Tank Girl
A popular Australian comic character, tank girl became controversial because of the work containing nudity and violence. To some people she is simply incredible she drinks too much, fights too much and prowls the Australian outback in a tank. To the more feminist audience she may even seem like an empowered woman who lives in her own world (men and kangaroos are just a part of it). She also holds giant missiles in her bra (interest much?).
4) Ice Haven
This piece of work was accused of containing explicit language and non-sexual nudity. A high school teacher in Connecticut had to resign after lending a freshman a copy of Daniel Clowes’ Eightball #22 (later published as Ice Haven) and a parent complained. The pictorial assemblage revolves around the happenings of the small town of Ice Haven, which houses a series of tangential vignettes. The stories eventually converge around the kidnapping of a child, but that’s apparently not as disturbing as the scourge of brief non-sexual nudity. Considering that Clowes’ work is both challenging, cerebral and thought-provoking, a high school kid could do a lot worse.
Persepolis is Marjane Satrai’s tale of life in revolution era Iran. While leading a very heavy topic she takes the reader on a journey through a child’s perspective. The comic contains profanity and violent content. However supporters of the comic have said that violence was there for a reason!
This was more of a printing/editing error more than anything. To the editor’s horror (and a teenage boy’s delight) Elektra was inadvertently completely naked. Fortunately for the creators cleverly placed shadows were able to hide most of the assets. However this did not stop Marvel from recalling the entire issue.
Art Spiegelman’s Maus, one of the most critically acclaimed (and widely taught) comics of all time, has received its fair share of attempted censorship. The comic – in which different nations’ people are depicted as being different animals, in a vibrant and distressing allegory about the Holocaust – showed Polish characters as pigs (alongside Jewish mice and German cats), which, in California, caused controversy. As Nick Smith of the Pasadena Public Library explains, one member of the public attempted to turn his own struggles with the book into censorship under the guise of the protection of children.