Banned Books Week is one of the strangest library-related “holidays.” What are we celebrating? The fact that a bunch of books have been censored, challenged, or downright banned? Far from it. Banned Books Week is all about calling attention to your freedom to read. Unfortunately, that freedom comes with all the censorship, challenges, and bans from those that oppose intellectual freedom, diversity, and when it comes down to it…fun.
Comics and graphic novels have a special place in the Banned Books pantheon as it tends to be easier to point to images as being “inappropriate” than taking the time to read a full text. However, the comics listed here that have drawn the ire of would-be censors are some of the greatest works the medium has to offer. Check them out from the Library today!
And if you’re interested in learning more about Banned Books Week and banned comics, here are some top notch resources to consult:
This One Summer is a beautiful graphic novel drawn in monotone hues of blue. It captures a coming of age story filled with the nostalgia of visiting a summer lake house, following its protagonist Rose as she navigates one summer of her early adolescence. It’s often challenged because of some sexual content and with claims that the book is unsuitable for the age group it is intended for.
Documenting Marjane Satrapi’s own experience of growing up during the Iranian Revolution, Persepolis was an instant classic from the moment it was published. Unfortunately, it’s been challenged across the US from middle schools to universities for a variety of reasons – including its use of gambling, expletive language, and its political viewpoint.
Even superheroes aren’t immune to the wrath of banned books. The Killing Joke, though a mature story, is one of the most iconic Batman comics, establishing a pivotal point in the ongoing saga for several characters. In one particular challenge against the book at a library in Nebraska, it was argued that the book advocates for crime. And while the book certainly has its share of egregious crime (trigger warning: there is a sexual assault in the book), it does not advocate that the Joker’s crimes are acceptable.
Bone, from Ohio’s own Jeff Smith, has been hailed as one of the all-time great all-ages comics. Despite this – you guessed it – the censors have come after it for reasons saying it promotes smoking and drinking (it doesn’t), that it’s too scary (it’s got some exciting parts, but definitely not scary), and that it’s generally offensive (it’s actually pretty wholesome).
Raina Telgemeier is the biggest name in comics, dominating sales charts. When it debuted in 2019, her graphic novel for kids and young adults, Guts, was the bestselling book in the US; not the bestselling comic or graphic novel, the bestselling book- beating out the likes of Stephen King and Malcolm Gladwell. Drama, about a bunch of middle school theatre kids, is challenged for sexual content. The closest content of this nature it displays is kissing, but that kissing is between two boys, so it caused a homophobic panic.