Thursday, November 13, 2008

History of Erotic Comics Banned in Australia

I thought Australia was a forward thinking country. I know we've had our share of censorship and banned books during the 50s, 60s and 70s (Portnoy's Complaint comes to mind, as well as The Little Red School Book which I confess I got hold of when I was 11 and which I read cover to cover with wide eyes and a permanent O shape to my mouth). It now it seems that Australian Customs whom I have the highest respect for (Border Security rules!) is keeping Erotic Comics: A Graphic History from Tijuana Bibles to Underground Comix on ice. 

According to our sources, the book is being held back from being distributed to booksellers on instruction by the Australian Government and is to be branded on the cover with the scarlet letter 'M' for 'Mature Audiences' in the form of a sticker. Now I sort of get that for the simple reason that mainstream bookstores such as Borders shelve all the graphic novels across all genres and markets in a specific graphic novel section, hence the need for some sort of classification system that lets both youngsters and adults know that some of the material is unsuitable for children. But outside of that I really don't know what all the fuss is about.

The irony is that many of the contributors in the aforementioned volume and in Volume 2 (which is being released in March 2009) are sold quite openly in Australia. Alan Moore has apparently written a fabulous Foreword in Volume 2, yet I have seen his erotic Lost Girls book (which from memory was packaged in a slip case and sold for around $70+) unabashedly displayed in the graphic novels section of the Borders Sydney-city store about two years ago. I also have several gay friends who have for the last couple of decades collected all of Tom of Finland's books from Australian book retailers. Even Jozef has lent me his copy of Junko Mizuno's Princess Mermaid, which he bought in a local comic book shop and which hey as the title tells us ... just so happens to be a manga mermaid story, albeit an erotic one.

The reality is that most of this material has been sold in this country in one form or another and has never been disguised or misrepresented as anything but erotic comics storytelling. I would have thought a high quality niche publication such as this would be a valuable contribution to our understanding of erotic comics in our publishing history. 

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