Banning comic books is an American pastime. Comics have seen censorship since their beginning, and they remain among the most common targets of those who seek to remove books from school and library bookshelves. The most banned comics since 2000 tell a pretty compelling story of what it is book censors dislike: queer stories, stories which tell dark truths about history, and any nudity which they can twist into claims of “pornography” or “explicit” content.
Today’s book bans, which have the same ire behind them as those previously, do make earlier waves of censorship look quaint. What used to be far more one-off are now massively coordinated efforts by right-wing Christian nationalists to eliminate as many books by or about queer people and people of color as possible. These groups have developed their own biased online review databases, put together by parent volunteers who have little or not professional background in education, librarianship, literacy, or child development. They’re simply reading the book to highlight things they don’t like, slapping those passages together, then uploading them to said databases in order to help other groups challenge and ban the same books.
One of the cornerstones of these biased online book reviews is that they try to rate books using a system similar to those used for movies. Their scales rate books on 0–5 scale, and books which “earn” a 4 or 5 rating trigger challenges; books rated 3 can also trigger plenty of challenges, depending on how ban happy the groups or communities those groups are in choose to be.
These scales — again, created by those with no knowledge of how any of this works — fall apart when you look at them together. Why is it more appropriate for students to read Lolita than it is for them to read The Kite Runner? Aren’t these groups against grooming? Or does that only apply when the books are about queer people and it fits the narrative better?
It is fascinating to look at the comics being targeted by these groups. I’ve combed through two of the largest right-wing book banner review databases, BookLook/BookLooks — Moms For Liberty’s creation — and RatedBooks — built by No Left Turn in Education, Utah Parents United, and Laverna in the Library — to pull out the comics being reviewed. Anything which has garnered the 3 (R), 4 (NC-17), and 5 (NC-17+) have been included below, alongside the reasoning given as to why these comics are rated as such. I have no included links to the sites or reviews because it’s not worth giving them more traffic, but chances are if you’ve seen any of these books or any other book challenges with passages and rationale behind why they’re inappropriate on social media or in the news, they’re from these collections. These people do not even do their own work; instead, they steal the work of others, which is also an interesting lesson to consider when it comes to what they are modeling for their children. Plagiarism is, apparently, okay.
What is it these groups are looking for in their “work?” It’s one of three things, as defined by themselves based on criteria they have made up: social emotional learning (a.k.a. mental health), comprehensive sexuality education (yes, sexuality, not sexual), and critical race theory (books where white people aren’t the default hero). You’ll see all of that in these reviews.
If you’re not showing up to talk on behalf of the books and the people these books represent at your local schools and libraries, then someone from one of these groups is doing that work for you from these incomprehensible, cherry-picked reviews.
This list is current as of February 25, 2023. More titles will inevitable be added. This is how they choose to spend their free time: “reading” books without bothering to comprehend them nor practice contextualization…and they’re hoping that they can indoctrinate the next generation to be just as challenged in literacy skills as they are choosing to be.
Note when you see “racism” listed — and more often than not, it’s on a book by and/or about a person of color — it’s not about the racism those groups experience. It’s “racism” against white people.
“Summary of concerns: This book contains explicit sexual activities; sexual nudity; profanity; alternate sexualities; and controversial political and social commentary.”
Apparently volumes 8, 9, and 10 are fine.
“Summary of concerns: This book contains explicit violence; mild profanity; and sexual activities.”
“Summary of concerns: This book contains sexual activities; molestation; nudity; controversial political commentary; and alcohol and drug use.”
“Summary of concerns: This book contains obscene illustrations depicting sexual activities; sexual nudity; alternate sexuality; profanity; alcohol use and drug abuse; and suicidal thoughts.”
“Summary of concerns: This book contains controversial religious commentary; sexual activities; sexual nudity; drug use; self-harm include self flagellation and suicide.
Mitigating factors: Positive narrative describing the immorality and inhumanity involved in secularism, promiscuity, and drug use.”
“Summary of concerns: This book contains profanity; sexual activities; sexual assault; excessive violence; nudity; drug use; alcohol use involving minors; inflammatory racial commentary; and inflammatory religious commentary.”
“Summary of concerns: This book contains alternate sexualities; sexual activities; sexual nudity; profanity and derogatory term; violence including self- harm; and controversial religious commentary.”
“Summary of concerns: This book contains alternate sexualities; alternate gender ideologies; profanity; alcohol use; suicide commentary; controversial religious commentary; sexual activities; and sexual nudity.”
“Summary of concern: This book contains obscene sexual activities and sexual nudity; alternate gender ideologies; and profanity.”
“Summary of concerns: This book contains alcohol use; explicit sexual activities; sexual nudity; mild profanity; explicit violence; and controversial gender ideologies.”
Note: the text version of this story “only” garners a 2/5.
“Summary of concerns: This book contains profanity; controversial and inflammatory racial and cultural commentary; controversial religious commentary; sexual activities; sexual nudity; alternate gender ideologies; alternate sexualities; and drug use.”
Note that the text version of the same book garners a 4/5 rating.
“Summary of concerns: This book contains inexplicit sexual assault; graphic violence; inexplicit child molestation; hate including racism; mild/infrequent profanity; and alcohol use.”
“Summary of concerns: This book contains obscene sexual illustrations and commentary; obscene sexual nudity; profanity; and alternate gender ideologies.”
This particular entry does not actually point out the summary of concerns but instead offers several scanned pages from the book and four highlighted, one sentence passages. The issue seems to be that Jeffrey Dahmer was deviant? It’s not clear, but there are pages for users to complain about.
“Summary of concerns: This book contains alternate sexualities; alternate gender ideologies; and controversial racial and social commentary.”
“Summary of concern: This book contains non-sexual full-frontal female nudity”
This is rated the same as the actual novel.
“Summary of concern: This book contains profanity; alcohol use involving minors; controversial social commentary; self-harm including anorexia, and suicidal ideations; sexual activities; and sexual assault.”
“Summary of concern: This book contains sexual activities; alcohol use involving minors; and profanity.”
“Summary of concern: This book contains illustrations and commentary involving sexual nudity; sexual activities; alternate gender ideologies; and alternate sexualities”
Angry by comics being banned? By people without expertise deciding what kids can or cannot read? Then sign the petition below to help put an end to book bans.