Jo Duffy, a very nice lady, overheard one of them claiming intimate knowledge of a number of writers, ending with "Now that Jo Duffy -- that guy is a bastard. Let me tell you about him..."
My cousin Adam Gaiman told me about listening to one of them telling a comic shop in Newcastle everything he knew about me. Adam thought it was particularly hilarious, because none of it was even remotely true. At the point where the gentleman announced that it was common knowledge in the industry that "gaiman" was a pen name chosen to proclaim my sexual preferences to the world, Adam went over and showed him his bus pass, with his name on it.
Sometimes I worry that the Internet is in danger of giving the loud guy at the front of the comic-books store an audience rather larger than a couple of kids and the manager. Case in point...
I'm not certain if this is the appropriate avenue by which to raise this question, but I could not find any other contact information (such as e-mail).
I've been at turns entranced with and nauseated by the Jesus Castillo case in recent weeks. Your relationship with the CBLDF is well known, and their association with you has been enough to engender my trust and support even were I NOT already the sort of person that gets passionate about censorship and freedom of speech issues. But I just found this posted over on Steven Grant's "Permanent Damage" column (http://www.comicbookresources.com/columns/index.cgi?column=10) and I would be very interested in your thoughts.
(To be clear, this is NOT Mr. Grant's opinion, but rather a letter he received from one of the readers of his column.)
" You mentioned the Castillo case briefly in this week's PERMANENT DAMAGE. One interesting thing I don't think a lot of people are aware of - in fact, I think a lot of people are trying very hard not to talk about this - is a growing sense of dissatisfaction with the current administration at the CBLDF.
I've heard a lot of things and I've tried to put a bug into a few people's ears about this - because one day this is going to be a big story. But the CBLDF is apparently the holiest of holy cows in our industry, because no one is even questioning this.
Basically, I live in Oklahoma, in Tulsa, and I've heard more than one lawyer in our local comic book store speak at about the Fund's deficiencies. These are people who have done pro bono volunteer work for the Fund and been staggered by the lack of coordination and perspicacity on the part of the fund's leaders. They say that the fund is run by unqualified politicos. They say that the fund has been derailed by pro-pornography interests and funding (always a tricky subject in OK - you never know if someone is mentioning pornography because they are a Bible thumper or not). They say that the representation in the Jesus Castillo case consisted of a bunch of New York First Amendment lawyers who had no real interest in actually getting Castillo off on what would have been an open & shut criminal argument, but instead wasted their resources on the boondoggle of trying to prove that the 'Legend of the Overfiend' or whatever kind of tentacle love book it was was considered art - which backfired immensely in the jury room. They say that the Fund is basically dedicated to the defense of more abstract political freedoms as opposed to the actual nitty-gritty of getting people like Castillo out of trouble and keeping their businesses alive.
Now, of course, there's a lot of unsubstantiated stuff up there - but I've heard this from numerous sources. This is all rumor - but - if there's one thing the Nixon administration taught us its that where there's a stink, there's probably shit. There's nothing wrong with defending the First Amendment - of course not - but if it's a choice between defending a simple criminal case where a member of our community has been endangered and trying a longshot First Amendment precedent-setting argument, a lot of people think that the Fund has its priorities shot.
Of course, most people in comics are not lawyers, they don't know what's going on, they only see the Fund as the Good Guys and would never think anything bad about a not-for-profit foundation which effectively positions itself as the last line of defense against the forces of evil. But maybe someone needs to ask some tough questions in the legal community and see if the comics community's perceptions of the Fund's priorities match the realities."
I a bit uncomfortable with this author's take on the situation, and given that I plan to be a comics writer and my fiance is an intellectual properties attorney who does work for the occasional comics creator (to say nothing of my aforementioned passion on the subject) I would love to know what you think.
Sorry if this is not the proper way of contacting you. Let me know (if possible) how best to address you at this site in the future.
Er... not sure what I can say about that. It's not even "Do you still beat your wife?" It's "The Oklahoma lawyers who hang around a comic store I go to say you rape your wife every night. Does she bleed a lot? Hey, where there's smoke, right? And they say you killed and ate your kids. One day it'll all come out."
They say that the fund is run by unqualified politicos.
The fund is run by Charles Brownstein, who is the the Exec Dir, along with a couple of part-timers and a bunch of volunteers. It's overseen by a board of directors consisting of two retailers, one publisher, two writers, one lawyer, one former publisher (who is also an artist and agent), one retailer website person who used to be a distributor, and one distributor. It also has a general counsel on retainer.
Here's a Who's Who at the Fund. (It needs to be updated -- it omits newest board members Chris Staros, publisher of Top Shelf Comics, and Milton Griepp, from the ICV2 website.)
They say that the fund has been derailed by pro-pornography interests and funding (always a tricky subject in OK - you never know if someone is mentioning pornography because they are a Bible thumper or not).
If it has been, I have no idea who the pro-pornography "interests" are. To be honest, I kind of wish there was "special interest" funding out there -- it would make the CBLDF's life a lot easier.
The CBLDF publishes its accounts at the end of the year. Since I've been on the board, every dollar that's come in has come in the hard way, one at a time, from memberships, from selling things at conventions, from eBay, from readings, and so on.
(This is why the CBLDF is always fundraising.)
Is the CBLDF going to wind up supporting material that someone considers "obscene"? Yup. Quite often. Is it what you'd consider obscene? That depends on who you are. Ask the Virginia man who spent the night in jail for selling a kid a copy of Elfquest.
They say that the representation in the Jesus Castillo case consisted of a bunch of New York First Amendment lawyers who had no real interest in actually getting Castillo off on what would have been an open & shut criminal argument, but instead wasted their resources on the boondoggle of trying to prove that the 'Legend of the Overfiend' or whatever kind of tentacle love book it was was considered art - which backfired immensely in the jury room.
The representation in the Jesus Castillo case was a local lawyer, who bought his comics at the store in question.
There were no New York lawyers involved. There were no lawyers with agendas.
The CBLDF has nothing to do with directing the details of the case (as these lawyers would know, if they were involved in the only case the CBLDF has funded in Oklahoma. A case the CBLDF stopped being involved with, if I remember correctly -- it was long before my time -- at the point where the lawyers, and the accused, started plea-bargaining, and pled guilty, which we don't do). We find lawyers, work with them to find expert witnesses, and write cheques. We get other organisations involved where necessary.
The Jesus castillo case wasn't tried as a 'precedent-setting" case. It was a comic-store manager being tried for selling an adult comic to an undercover cop. Given the shape of American obscenity laws, one of the things you need to do is bring in expert witnesses to explain to a jury that the material has merit. We did.
Nobody has any idea what "backfired in the jury room". It's very easy to be a monday morning quarterback, where legal cases are concerned. The lawyers succeeded in getting the second case against Jesus thrown out. They lost the case, and the local DA won it.
They say that the Fund is basically dedicated to the defense of more abstract political freedoms as opposed to the actual nitty-gritty of getting people like Castillo out of trouble and keeping their businesses alive.
I think abstract political freedoms are a very good thing, personally. The CBLDF was founded to support a specific abstract political freedom, the First Amendment, along with an abstract idea -- " that comics should be accorded the same constitutional rights as literature, film, or any other form of expression". Mostly, the way I've seen the CBLDF support these abstract political freedoms is by keeping people like Castillo out of trouble.
Sometimes it supports them by opposing legislation that would make it much easier for the guys working in the comic stores to get in trouble. The current Arkansas proposed legislation is a good example of this. It's easier to stop legislation that would criminalise keeping material that might be "harmful to minors" -- which could include, under the proposed law, superhero comics and novels that aren't for kids -- in the same space as kids' material, than it is to fight the court cases afterwards.
The fund has a pretty good success rate. It has an excellent success rate in the cases you never see, because they get sorted out before they ever get to court. In the ones that do get to court, it has a solid success ratio -- we've won a lot more than 50% of the cases we've been involved with. We'll win more as the years roll on. We'll lose some more, too, in all probability.
I think it's worth pointing out that, over the years The Comics Journal has never shown any reluctance in investigating the CBLDF's handling of individual cases, or really investigating anything to do with the CBLDF, and exists as a sort of de facto watchdog. It's definitely given the CBLDF a seriously hard time in the past over internal problems and on ways that cases have been handled -- and hasn't given the CBLDF a free ride. (I've always felt this was a good thing.)
And beyond that, I'm not sure what to say. There's nothing in that letter that has any truth to it. The subtext of the letter would appear to be that either the mysterious author or the unnamed lawyers think that the CBLDF would be better employed in telling retailers not to sell dirty books (that's dirty like real dirty, or dirty like Cherry Poptart or Omaha the Cat Dancer). Or Death: The High Cost of Living. Or Frank Frazetta posters. Or anything else that local police have ever objected to. As former CBLDF Exec Dir Chris Oarr pointed out, "One thing I have learned since working at the Fund is how many incidents of store harassment involve "bread and butter" titles you would never think of racking in the adult section. Sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero comics account for the bulk of complaints that we deal with at the CBLDF. Most of these are dispelled with a letter or phone call from our attorney, so they don't end up in court. But the fact remains that the complaints we encounter involving mainstream comics far outnumber those involving explicitly adult or "underground" themes. "
Here's a brief history of what the fund is -- how it came into existence and what it does.
Does that help?
Also e-mails in this morning to let me know that someone (again, doing the internet equivalent of talking loudly in the front of the comic store) is planning to organise a boycott of 1602 for a reason that would make them look kind of silly when the whole story is told. (C'mon, give me credit for having some kind of brains. 1602 may not be high art -- nor is it intended to be -- but it plays fair.)
Several more saying of 1602 "well, it's an Elseworlds really isn't it?". Not really. As I tried to explain in the press conference, you can certainly read it as an Elseworlds, but it's not a narrative strategy that will repay the biggest dividends. Part of the fun of the story is, I hope, "how did we get here?" and "how can we get back?"
Dear Mr Gaiman
This, I swear, will be the last time I bother you. I
just wanted to let you know that 'Nice Hair' is back
up and running at:
Your lookalike is in today's strip, so I figured it'd
be polite to let you know before I vanish back into
Oh, and I also wanted to tell you I really enjoyed
1602. I didn't think it was possible for anyone to
make Daredevil even remotely cool, but you did it.
Take care of yourself!
PS: I really think I'll have to draw you as a
washerwoman now. Very sorry.