Comics & Graphic Novels Often Targets for Censorship

Each year, we celebrate Banned Books Week to call attention to the harms of censorship. The focus of this year’s Banned Books Week is comic books and graphic novels. In recent years, there have been a number of high profile challenges to comics. For example, just last year Chicago Public Schools restricted access to Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir Persepolis.

Why are comics so often targets for censorship? According to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) Banned Books Handbook, “Comics are uniquely vulnerable to challenges because of the medium’s visual nature and because comics still carry the stigma of low-value speech. Some challenges are brought against comics because a single page or panel can be taken out of context, while others come under attack because of the mistaken notion that all comics are for children” (p. [2]).

Here are just a few of the comics and graphic novels challenged in recent years:

  • Bone / Jeff Smith (Reason challenged: Drugs, alcohol, smoking, political viewpoint, racism, violence)
  • Stuck in the Middle / ed. Ariel Schrag (Reason challenged: Language, sexual content, drug references)
  • The Color of Earth / Kim Dong Hwa (Reason challenged: Nudity, sexual content, unsuited to age group)
  • Persepolis / Marjane Satrapi (Reason challenged: Profanity, violent content)
  • Fun Home / Alison Bechdel (Reason challenged: Sex/nudity, LGBTQ themes) *Last week, Bechdel was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant.
  • Blankets / Craig Thompson (Reason challenged: Sex/nudity)
  • The Sandman / Neil Gaimon (Reason challenged: Anti-family themes, offensive language, unsuited for age group)
  • Watchmen / Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (Reason challenged: Unsuited to age group)

Find the full list of the Library’s comic books and graphic novels.

For literary criticism on graphic novels, search MLA International Bibliography or JSTOR (access via our Databases page).