In which there is a new project from First Second on the internet, various library-related things are discussed, and all is well that ends well (as it ever is). Also, reference is made to Portland, OR.
I don't know if you've ever heard of Tugboat Press? They are an excellent small press based in Portland (where there are many wonders and delights of the world of comics; you should go experience them yourself, gentle reader!) that publishes many lovely small comics and also the anthology Papercutter. Papercutter features a number of people of whom First Second is officially Very Fond, including the esteemed Aaron Renier (book forthcoming from :01 in just three weeks now!) and the inestimable Nate Powell (book forthcoming from :01 in, um, quite some time in the future).
So when we saw that Papercutter #7 (still actually available from Tugboat: you should check it out) featured the stylings of MK Reed and Jonathan Hill, we were all in. And it turns out their story was a tale of censorship and librarians and fantasticalness! Now it is ours to publish, and the rest is history-in-the-making.
So! Now you can read the story that that very Papercutter #7 has transformed into, three times a week on the internet! It is called Americus, and you can find it here. Also there is a helpful button at the top of the blog. We are excited to hear your thoughts! (Mostly you can tell them to MK and Jonathan, but if you would like to tell them to us, that is okay too.)
(slightly more serious meditation follows, you may want to skip this bit if you are only in it for the giggles)
One of the reasons I'm so excited about this book is that it's about a kid and a town and a librarian who all have to deal with an attempt to ban a book from their local library. That's something that happens more often than it should, and in a number of subtle and insidious ways — supervisors or library directors can just order books removed from the shelves (bypassing the library procedures); offended readers can check out books from the library and never return them.
It's not just that no one gets to read these vanished books. It's that most people don't even notice that they're gone. Have you checked your local library lately? It may be that there's a whole slice of life missing from it. And you might know how to use amazon and the inter-library-loan system, but maybe that eight year-old over there is going to grow up without ever knowing he's missing The Giver, and this fourteen year-old over here is going to not know she's missing Annie On My Mind. If kids are using books to create pictures in their heads of what the world is like, they could be missing major pieces and don't even know it.
This whole situtation is especially problematic for comics.
It's those dratted images — if there's someone having sex or doing drugs or behaving violently, it's right on the page there in front of you! You can't miss it, hiding in black-on-white blocks of text. That makes it easy for people who have problems with certain types of behavior to recognize them in comics and take steps to remove those comics from the shelves.
One of the most bizarre versions of this occurred just a few weeks ago in Crestview, Florida, where a woman is demanding that the manga Gantz be removed from the shelf after her son stole a copy and took it home. "My son lost his mind when he found this," she said. "Now he's in a home for extensive therapy." [read more about this, it's super-weird]
There are a lot of excellent librarians who spend a lot of time and energy making sure that things of this sort do not happen. In fact, the American Library Association has a whole Banned Book Week! You should check it out — there are a lot of opportunties for anyone interested to get involved.
And while you're clicking links, take a look at Wikipedia's List of Most Commonly Challenged Books in the US — you never know! Captain Underpants may be threatening the sanity of your children at this very moment!