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Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Annual 2019 Report

CBLDF ACTS FAST TO FIGHT CE Free expression saves lives. It illuminates truth, uncovers injustice, and lifts up marginalized voices. It creates connection, empathy, and understanding among communities. But free expression is under constant attack! Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is on the front lines of protecting free expression and those being threatened for engaging with it. We support the teachers and librarians who put their jobs and community standing at risk for offering diverse books. We defend artists and retailers facing legal threats for making and selling a wide range of ideas. And most importantly, we advocate for the young people who are told that there is something wrong with them because a comic book they identify with is targeted for censorship.

CBLDF Fights Identity Censorship CBLDF leads the fight against the rising trend of identity censorship, in which books and speakers are targeted based on the identity of the author or characters in a book. LGBTQ+ content is the most frequent target of this divisive and dangerous censorship. In 2019, CBLDF fought this trend extensively: ††Leander, Texas: Lilah Sturges, author of Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass, had her library event abruptly canceled because she is transgender. CBLDF led a national protest demanding the restoration of the event and is continuing to advocate for a positive solution in this case. This incident demonstrates the bigotry facing diverse content and how CBLDF’s efforts

are essential to fighting challenges to diversity. ††Book Bans and Challenges: CBLDF fought challenges to Fun Home, Pride: Harvey Milk & The Rainbow Flag, Lily & Duncan, I Am Jazz, George, and My Brother’s Husband by providing resources, letters of support, and substantive aid. ††Proactive Education: CBLDF creates training, resources, and educational opportunities to help teachers, students, and librarians fight censorship. We launched public campaigns addressing identity censorship and produced a wide range of tools, including webinars, online study guides, and more, to help other jurisdictions prevent similar cases. Check out CBLDF’s webinar on identity censorship at

CBLDF Takes Legal Action CBLDF provided legal support in 13 cases this year, assisting retailers, readers, and creators whose rights were at risk and weighing in on legislative processes that would have hindered their rights.

Call 1-888-88-CBLDF or email at the first sign of a First Amendment emergency so CBLDF can help protect access!


Our direct legal aid supported artists facing civil actions against their First Amendment–protected Me mb er work, providing advice to ar t retailers and publishers about how the law affects their rights and providing referrals in civil and criminal cases. Thanks in part to CBLDF’s intervention, none of these cases went to court. The Fund also supported a successful effort encouraging the California Supreme Court to hear an appeal on the anti-SLAPP issues in Rall v. Tribune 365, LLC. wn Bro ey ffr Je

CBLDF Combats AntiEducation Laws CBLDF was active in fighting a wave of anti-education bills in Florida and Vermont. CBLDF voiced opposition to the following bills, which are now all dead. ††Florida’s HB 855 & SB 1454 attempted to expand the definition of “harmful to minors” to include any sexual content regardless of academic or artistic merit. The bill would have criminalized the teaching of countless major works. Any citizen of Florida would have been able to sue for an injunction to prohibit works from being taught until a court decided their appropriateness for education. ††Florida’s SB 330 would have watered down science education throughout the state in the guise of offering “balanced” opinions instead of proven scientific theory.

††Florida’s HB 195 would have required schools to offer Bible study classes. ††Vermont’s LD 94 would have criminalized educators for assigning or providing “obscene” materials. It was unanimously rejected by the legislative committee.

CBLDF Supports Manga A United Nations agency tasked with expanding child protection circulated a draft of guidelines that included provisions targeting expressive content, including comics, prose, and other forms of artistic expression. CBLDF submitted comments on the draft, applauding the UN’s efforts to protect children, but cautioning against encouraging governments to place new restrictions on freedom of expression. CBLDF’s comments helped inform a narrower set of guidelines that were more sensitive to content concerns. CBLDF’s legal team remains available at a moment’s notice, and their rapid response often helps defuse cases before they wind up going to court.

CBLDF Defends Books Beyond these cases, CBLDF has been actively involved in 10 challenges to books in schools and libraries this year, including cases involving The Walking Dead, Assassination Classroom, The Handmaid’s Tale: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, and Love Is Love.

Help us continue this important work by making a tax deductible donation today!

CBLDF SUPPORTS COMICS IN T Thanks to your donations, CBLDF provides valuable new research, online learning, timely advisories, and practical resources to combat censorship and to support the use of comics in classrooms.

Comics in Education Survey This fall, CBLDF released the results of a groundbreaking survey, offering one of the first data-driven looks into the important role comics are playing in classrooms all over the country. The results help prove the educational value of the medium and offer an important foundation for future research. The survey results show widespread enthusiasm for the format and a broad spectrum of engagement nationwide, from pre-K to higher education and rural to urban communities. More than 30% of respondents use comics in their classrooms daily. More than three quarters use comics for independent reading, and about half use them to supplement the main lesson. Almost 40% of respondents incorporate comics into their main teaching track, a higher-than-expected result that indicates the format has made significant

gains in educational settings. Finally, the survey proves what we already knew: profound student interest in the format. Less than 3% of respondents indicate student resistance to comics. The results of the survey prove that barriers to comics in the classroom are crumbling, but some still remain. Educators note persistent misconceptions about the validity and rigor of comics as educational tools, opposition to a handful of images (especially those depicting violence or nudity) and specific types of content (notably LGBTQ+), a lack of familiarity with the format, and financial hurdles. Much of the opposition comes from fellow teachers and administrators, but some respondents encountered resistance from parents, special-interest groups, and on very rare occasions, students themselves. As articulated in the survey: “It’s time to move the conversation about comics in the classroom from the intangible to the tangible and to provide handholds for future work that can be done with greater deliberation, design, and intelligence. CBLDF’s survey provides a groundwork for that effort.”

Top 10 Comics Used in Schools Educators are using hundreds of titles to support instruction. Respondents cited the following titles most frequently. 1. Maus by Art Spiegelman 2. March (trilogy) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell 3. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi 4. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

THE CLASSROOM 5. Amulet (series) by Kazu Kibuishi 6. Bone (series) by Jeff Smith 7. Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud 8. Ms. Marvel (series) by G. Willow Wilson et al. 9. Smile by Raina Telgemeier 10. (tie) Dog Man (series) by Dav Pilkey and Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

a-glance information about how the law affects free expression in schools. View it online at

Read the full survey report at

CBLDF added two publications to our educator resources in 2019.

Webinars In 2019, CBLDF launched a monthly webinar program that gathers creators, teachers, and librarians to share their wisdom and experience! Gene Luen Yang, the National Book Award– nominated author of American Born Chinese, kicked off the program with Teaching Tolerance & Understanding. Other webinars included Take Pride in Comics: The Challenges Facing LGBTQ+ Content; Developing a Classroom Comics Collection 101: Addressing Barriers to Comics; Using Comics in the Classroom: Practical Tools for Developing Curriculum; Addressing Identity Censorship; and Using Comics to Teach Tough Topics.

Watch these webinars and find out about future webinars at

Online Resources This fall, we published Know Your Rights, a free printable resource of essential Supreme Court cases about student rights. It is a great tool to spark classroom discussions and provides at-

CBLDF also published hundreds of news items about the state of free expression around the world and new entries in CBLDF’s ongoing education columns on

Publications ††This Is What Democracy Looks Like maps out how the U.S. government was designed to foster democracy and encourages civic engagement. Produced by the Eisner Award– winning Center for Cartoon Studies and distributed by CBLDF, which also created supplementary resources, this comic is part of a major campaign promoting civics. San Francisco mayor London Breed was seen reading a copy at Comix Experience! ††Read Banned Comics is the essential guide to banned and challenged comics and a perfect centerpiece for your Banned Books Week celebration, with reading suggestions and more!

CBLDF HELPS RETAILERS Selling Comics: An Essential New Handbook for Comics Retailers

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Selling Comics is a compilation of essays and best practices from some of the sharpest minds in the industry, covering topics as wide-ranging as general store layout, building your brand, and diversifying your product lines. Selling Comics also provides several chapters about CBLDF’s mission, covering topics such as how to handle a negative media attack and understanding your rights as a small business owner. “Epsum factorial non deposit quid pro quo hic escorol. Olypian quarrels et gorilla congolium sic ad nauseum. Souvlaki ignitus carborundum e plutimate et non interruptus stadium.” - name here

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With a foreword by beloved industry stalwart Bob Wayne (former Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing at DC Comics), Selling Comics is a valuable field guide for new and veteran retailers alike. All contributions are from current or former comic shop employees or owners, covering the spectrum of the current retail landscape.

selling comics

This fall, CBLDF and Dark Horse Comics released CBLDF Presents: Selling Comics, a practical guide to the nuts and bolts of modern comics retailing.

g sellin s c i m o c CBLDF presents


The guide to retailing and best practices

in the greatest modern artform

Retailer Webinars With the CBLDF Retailer Webinar series, the Fund supports comics retailers with training that helps protect retailer rights and supports business growth! This year’s webinars included Managing Media, with Jacqueline Cohen of Fantagraphics, Mitch Cutler of Saint Mark’s Comics, Siena Fallon of NC Comicon, and Alex Segura of Archie Comics, who discussed how retailers can turn difficult press situations around for the better. Jennifer Haines, owner of The Dragon, delivered two training sessions on Retailing to Schools and Libraries. Retailer webinars happen once a quarter, so join us for future editions! Catch up on past webinars at

Defend Comics Our all-ages anthology returned for Free Comic Book Day, with tales by Nathan Hale, Brian Fies, Bill Griffith, and more! CBLDF’s FCBD books help foster dialogue about the power of free expression and are guaranteed to delight parents and kids alike!

THANK YOU, HUMBLE BUNDLE! CBLDF’s current work wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of Humble Bundle! Humble Bundle sells a variety of digital content, raising money for charity with every type of product sold. Thanks to Humble, CBLDF has been able to expand our program work to do all the projects in this update and many more to be announced! Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home, says, “CBLDF has gone to bat for my readers and fellow artists time and again over the years. Thanks to their support, books like Fun Home are available to readers who wouldn’t otherwise see themselves in their community’s libraries. Thank you, Humble Bundle community, for supporting their work!” Renowned author and CBLDF Advisory Board chair Neil Gaiman says, “Thanks to the support of the Humble Bundle community, CBLDF is realizing our long-term goals of creating new legal support for creators at risk domestically and around the world. We’re building more resources to help students, educators, and librarians use comics in education, and defending their free expression rights—all at no cost to those who need our help.” CBLDF President Christina Merkler says, “Thank you, Humble Bundle community, for helping us ensure that everyone has the chance to enjoy their right to read freely!” Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the First Amendment rights of the comics art form and its community of retailers, creators, publishers, librarians, educators, and readers. CBLDF provides legal referrals, representation, advice, assistance, and education in furtherance of these goals.


Charles Brownstein, Executive Director Bob Schreck, Deputy Director Georgia Nelson, Director of Operations Patricia Mastricolo, Editorial Coordinator Holly Dotson, Education Coordinator Robert Corn-Revere, Legal Counsel

BOARD OF DIRECTORS Christina Merkler, President Chris Powell, Vice President Ted Adams, Treasurer Dale Cendali, Secretary Jeff Abraham Jennifer L. Holm Reginald Hudlin Katherine Keller Paul Levitz David Steinberger Gene Luen Yang


Neil Gaiman & Denis Kitchen, Co-Chairs Susan Alston Greg Goldstein Matt Groening Chip Kidd Jim Lee Frenchy Lunning Frank Miller Louise Nemschoff Mike Richardson William Schanes José Villarrubia Bob Wayne Peter Welch

CBLDF thanks our Guardian Members:


James Bailey, Dale Cendali, and Philip Harvey

Betsy Gomez, Designer and Editor Cover art by Michael Allred (pencils), Joe Quinones (inks), and Laura Allred (colors). CBLDF is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. Donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law in the year they are given. For financial information, including audited financial reports, visit ©2019 Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and respective authors.

CBLDF’s education program is made possible with the generous support of the Gaiman Foundation and supporters like you!

Corporate Members

HOW TO HELP BECOME A MEMBER  With options for every

budget, CBLDF membership makes you part of the supporter community that ensures we can continue our important work to protect free expression. Join today:

VOLUNTEER  CBLDF is a lean organization that’s

made powerful by the contributions of our volunteers. Whether you’re a student or an enthusiast, CBLDF has volunteer opportunities in our office and at conventions. If you’re a writer, artist, or designer, we also need your help!

SPREAD THE WORD  Join our email list, and follow

us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to learn the latest in our efforts to protect comics. Share our work with your network of friends and followers. The more people who know of our work, the better able we are to perform it!

DESIGNATE THE FUND  Many employee match-

ing fund campaigns and online retail sites such as Amazon, eBay, and Humble Bundle let you designate an organization to receive funds from your purchases. You can help CBLDF by designating us as your chosen charity wherever these efforts are available!

DONATE  Visit to make a

tax-deductible monetary donation in support of our work. We also accept contributions of original art and other goods that can be used to advance our auction efforts. Your support makes a difference—please donate today!

“Even though there’s more ways than ever for authors and artists to make their voices heard, censorship and restrictions of expression are ever-present. Beyond legal aid and assistance in actual cases of censorship, CBLDF’s mission of education and information helps maintain the First Amendment’s role as a powerful tool for the freedom of speech.”

—Jeffrey Brown (Darth Vader and Son)

“Legal challenges to comics depicting the diversity of human experience—fiction and nonfiction alike—are inseparable from broader efforts to silence those very real voices in our world. The CBLDF’s dedication to confronting these challenges is essential to both the free exchange of ideas and a fair assumption of safety by which creators, retailers, librarians, and teachers may continue taking necessary risks in their own work. Support them.

—Nate Powell (March, Come Again)

“CBLDF, the work that it does by promoting access to books that are challenged, by defending creators and retailers that have been attacked by different groups, is just overwhelmingly brave and daring.” —Scott Snyder (Batman)

“Like many people, I’ve found it more and more difficult to wrap my head around issues of free speech because of recent news events. CBLDF has been at the forefront of these issues for many years now, which makes the work more important than ever. ” • 1-888-88-CBLDF

—Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese)

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CBLDF 2019 Annual Report  

Free expression withstood a wide range of attacks in 2019 and through it all, thanks to the support of donors like you, CBLDF stood proudly...

CBLDF 2019 Annual Report  

Free expression withstood a wide range of attacks in 2019 and through it all, thanks to the support of donors like you, CBLDF stood proudly...

Profile for cbldf