Last night at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund event held at the New York Comicon, it was announced that the Gordon Lee case has been dismissed. Of all the news to come out of this large and prestigious show, this is certainly the most important. It is a victory that can be perceived in many ways, given the huge sums of money it cost to defend, the horrible mental toll it must have taken on Lee, and the warning it brings with it. Let me get through a few facts.
I want to quote from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund's website for the back story, as I don't think I could put it better.
"During Halloween week 2004, Gordon Lee’s comic shop, Legends, of Rome, GA, participated in a trick-or-treat event in downtown Rome by distributing free comics. "Alternative Comics #2," the Free Comic Book Day edition from publisher Alternative Comics for 2004, was inadvertently included in the mix of books being given away. The comic was a single copy among thousands of comics being given away that day, and was accidentally handed to a minor, whose parent filed a complaint with the police.
The comic book features a variety of stories from the company's line, including an excerpt from Nick Bertozzi's now published graphic novel The Salon, depicting the first meeting between Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. On three pages of the eight page section, Picasso is depicted in the nude, a factually accurate detail for the period during which the story is set. There is no sexual content in the story.
Upon learning of the error in distributing the comic, Lee admitted that a mistake was made and offered to make a public apology for the first of many times. That apology was rejected, however, so days later, Lee was arrested. "
Please go here to read the rest of the article, which chronicles th CBLDF's involvement and all the legal wranglings Lee went through. I have seldom seen such a misuse of our legal system's time and energies, and am appalled in general. Thank God the CBLDF stepped in and helped Lee out, as the legal bills were insurmountable.
Last night when I found out that the case had been dismissed, I got a bit teary. This was justice, plain and simple. It is also a cautionary tale that we can take lessons from. As retailers, there must be a sense of vigilance about the material sold in their shops. The comic book community can't depend on the parent to police their own children's content. We have to understand that. While many parents are hands-on and do an amazing job of working through the many landmines that a child may encounter, there are still quite a few folks who rely on others to keep their kid's noses clean. My husband often found that parents would drop off their kids at his comic shop to baby sit while they went out shopping.
The freedom of speech we currently enjoy must be upheld at all costs. That is a given. We must also know where certain materials must be protected from minor children. That is where we must all be vigilant. As much as we are adults who are able to view any material we chose, the Lee trial has been a valuable lesson in the fact that there are many out there who don't think we have that right, much less the right to produce the materials that speak to our basic freedoms. This is certainly a victory on many counts, I can't discount that. I cheered and smiled when I read the news. I just can't get over the feeling of dread in my stomach that makes me think that this will not be the first or last time we have to defend our basic rights.