LIBERTY COMICS ed. by Scott Dunbier

reviewed by Kristian Williams | Friday, December 18th, 2009

Liberty ComicsImage Comics, 32 pages, soft cover, $3.99

Liberty Comics, a fundraising vehicle for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, features several creators offering their own idiosyncratic meditations on freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and cartooning:

Garth Ennis and his crew from The Boys supply a characteristically gratuitous-yet-endearing mutilation of some iconic heroes. Darwyn Cooke and Dave Stewart imagine a book that really can hurt people. Mark Millar (et al) gives us a day-in-the-life of a retired vampire; it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with censorship, but it’s a good story anyway. J. Bone offers a one-page morality play, in which Gobukan resists a governmental gag order — though also, ironically, remains silent. Scott Dunbier, Shawn McManus, and R. Starkings examine the ways the entertainment industry distorts the artist’s vision. Mike Mignola and J. Scott Campbell show censored versions of Hellboy (“Heckboy”) and Danger Girl, respectively; while Rick Veitch presents a decidedly uncensored Brat Pack postcard.

Most of the pieces are just gags, but a few also make astute political points. In five installments, Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier explain the need for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund by recounting past cases of censorship — and the possibility of future cases. In their last segment, they find themselves arrested for drawing a comic “about the mad slasher who wears no pants” — Groo the Wanderer! In “No One Rides for Free,” Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips provide a hard-boiled look at violence against journalists and its consequences for society at large. Arthur Adams, James Rochelle, and R. Starkings show Monkeyman and O’Brien fleeing a mob of Klansmen, clergymen, lawyers, cops, and jihadists — thus visibly tying censorship to other forms of intolerance. Starkings, Moritat, and Roshell push the point further in their Elephantmen piece:

“You have to trust the men with power. The politicians. The generals. The scientists. Men of industry… We can provide you with a much better world. We can protect you from everything you fear. We require only one thing from you. Silence. After all, it’s not something you haven’t given us before. When the Jews were taken to the camps in the Second World War. When the Tutsis were annihilated in Rwanda. When the Kurds were massacred in Iraq… The Albanians cleansed in Kosovo. Women raped and murdered in Darfur… Such a long list. Such…deafening silence.”

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