Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

Free Press

I once got in trouble because of sexually explicit comics on my web site. Fortunately, the only thing it cost me was the goodwill of my employer (who owned the machine the site was hosted on), which led to me leaving that job. I didn’t get in trouble with the law. If it had been The Man who came down on me (rather than The Boss), I might have turned to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund for help. The CBLDF is kind of like the ACLU of the comics industry, providing legal support for comics creators and retailers who are threatened with legal action while exercising their First-Amendment rights.

The CBLDF was founded in 1986, to defend the manager of Friendly Frank’s, a comics store in Lansing IL. He had been convicted of possessing and selling “obscene” comics, including the critically-acclaimed Omaha the Cat Dancer (an anthropomorphic-animals series about a professional stripper and the various people in her life). Denis Kitchen (of Kitchen Sink Press, publishers of Omaha) organised a fund-raising effort to pay for the manager’s appeal, which he won. The left-over funds became the CBLDF’s “war chest”.

Not that $20,000 is a lot of money when it comes to litigation. Lawyers aren’t cheap, and the kinds of experts you need to defend these kinds of cases (especially appeals) are even less so. You can spend several times that much on just a single trial, which is why the CBLDF does fund-raising all the time.

The CBLDF has participated in several other key cases in the past 17 years, with varying levels of success. They helped defend the owners of Planet Comics in Oklahoma City OK (who kept adults-only comics in a box behind the counter, but were raided by the police), Paul Mavrides (who argued that the California tax code should treat original comics art as art, not commercial property), Mike Diana (convicted of producing “obscene” comics and sentenced by the Florida courts to stop drawing), Tim Truman and Joe Lansdale (sued by Johnny and Edgar Winter for parodying them in a Jonah Hex comic), Jesus Castillo (convicted of selling an adults-only comic to an adult undercover cop in Dallas TX). I plan to write up each of these cases for future articles, explaining what was at stake, and how each one played out.

In the meantime, there’s a lot information about the organisation and their work on their web site. I encourage anyone who can afford it to join (and anyone who can afford to spend money every week on funnybooks can afford it) or to buy some of the cool merchandise they sell/auction to raise money.

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