December 15, 2000.  In an important victory for freedom of speech and expression, the Comic Book Legal Defense fund has succeeded in getting prosecutors in Dallas, Texas to drop a second charge in an obscenity case brought against a local retailer.  The two books in question, Demon Beast Invasion: The Fallen #2 and Legend of the Overfiend #1 were correctly displayed in an 'adults only' section and purchased by adults.  During the trial on the first charge, which took place in August, the jury ignored the expert testimony of cartoonist Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics) and Susan Napier, an associate professor of Asian studies at the University of Texas.  The CBLDF is appealing the conviction resulting from the first charge, based on the jury's ignoring of the expert testimony by McCloud and Napier, which was not contradicted by the prosecutors who did not call any expert witnesses.

The most frightening aspect of the August conviction was epitomized in the closing argument delivered by the prosecutor, who held up a comic to the jury and told them, 'You know in your hearts that this is a format designed to appeal to children.'  This argument is based on ignorance of the comic medium, which is (unfortunately) viewed by many in our society as fodder for children only, rather than as a major American contribution to the world of art and cultural expression.  Comics have yet to gain the kind of respect and protection under the First Amendment that novels and even films have achieved.  As a matter of fact the comic shop in question is located within shouting distance of adult book and video stores.  In this case, charges were brought against the comic shop by an outraged member of the local PTA, who doubtless believed (like the prosecutor) that comics were only for kids.

Another troubling aspect of this case is the lack of publicity surrounding such an egregious attack on the comics medium.  The retailer in question quite understandably did not wish to receive a lot of negative publicity and sensationalistic local news coverage.  He was undoubtedly aware of the dire economic fate of other retailers who fought the good fight and won a Pyrrhic victory in court, while at the same time suffering economically because of the publicity.  The CBLDF has consequently handled the case very discreetly.  The local papers and TV stations did not pick up the August conviction, but, on the other hand, CBLDF, which has spent over $25,000 on the case so far, has its hands tied in terms of fundraising.