Top 10 Banned Comic Books and Graphic Novels

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Top 10 Banned Comic Books and Graphic Novels

VOICE OVER: Callum Janes WRITTEN BY: Nancy Roberge-Renaud
These controversial comics caused an uproar. For this list, we'll be looking at comics and graphic novels that were outright banned, suppressed or challenged by official bodies at some point. Our countdown includes “This One Summer”, “Sex Criminals”, "Maus", and more!
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Top 10 Banned Comic Books and Graphic Novels


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Banned Comic Books and Graphic Novels.

For this list, we’ll be looking at comics and graphic novels that were outright banned, suppressed or challenged by official bodies at some point.

Have you read any of these supposedly taboo books? Let us know in the comments!

#10: EC Comics (1944-56)


In 1954, in an effort to prevent their titles from government regulation, those involved in comics formed their own regulatory organization, the Comics Code Authority. Though it was not an official authority, many vendors chose to only carry comics that donned the little white square. EC Comics was one of the casualties following the birth of the CCA. EC’s comics were intended for older audiences, and contained tales of horror, crime, war and science fiction. Despite some efforts to continue within the confines of the Code, EC owner William Gaines found it too restricting, eventually shutting down the company entirely. The last straw for Gaines was the attempted censorship of an African American astronaut in a 1956 comic entitled “Judgment Day”.

#9: “This One Summer” (2014)

Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki

This one is a little unfortunate, because in hindsight, the controversy could perhaps have been avoided. “This One Summer” drew much positive attention upon its publication, and made the shortlist for the Caldecott Medal (an award given to American children’s books illustrators). This honor had the schools filling their shelves with copies, without considering that Caldecott medals extend up to books aimed at the 14 year old age group. Most past Caldecott honorees have been at the lower end of the age spectrum, thus causing confusion. “This One Summer” was aimed at 12 to 14 year olds, and elementary school parents quickly disapproved of the themes of puberty, drug use, profanity and some sexual references, causing it to be removed and/or require parental permission.

#8: “Elektra: Assassin” (1986-87)

Frank Miller

This comic series was originally released in August of 1986, continuing until March of 1987, in 8 issues. Though the comics were aimed (and announced as being so) at adult readers, it didn’t stop some vendors from getting into hot water. Michael Correa, a comics store manager in Lansing, Illinois, was arrested for displaying what the officer considered to be obscene material. The arresting officer in question believed that the “Elektra” comic contained Satanic influences. Upon hearing of this, comic illustrators from across the industry rallied together to pay for Correa’s legal fees, eventually forming the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, or CBLDF. Correa was later acquitted of charges.

#7: “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” (2006)

Alison Bechdel

The multiple award-winning graphic novel “Fun Home” tells the autobiographical story of Alison Bechdel. Her father was a closeted gay man, and the repression and quelling of emotions was felt by Bechdel, specifically when she discovered she, herself, was gay. The book quickly drew controversy, with more than one party referring to it as adult material. In more than one instance, university students protested the use of the book in post-secondary English classes, or on suggested reading lists. Despite efforts by offended parties, the book remains on shelves and is now a musical as well. It’s an odd thing to protest someone else’s reality, and all life experiences deserve to be shared, especially when some readers can relate to it.

#6: “Weird Mysteries” #5, (1953)

Bernard Baily

In the wake of the aforementioned Comics Code Authority, many comics were banned for being obscene or otherwise problematic. Horror-themed comics were particularly hit, one such comic being “Weird Mysteries” #5. The book itself features a number of standard horror stories, involving vampires, zombies and the like. The cover features a colorful, intricate detailing of a brain being removed from a grotesque skull. By today’s standards, all is good (and even impressive). However, in the 1950s, this was deemed obscene.

#5: “Barefoot Gen” (1973-87)

Keiji Nakazawa

Author Keiji Nakazawa was only 7 years old when most of his family was killed in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945. He recounted his childhood experiences in graphic novel “Barefoot Gen”, not leaving out any gruesome details or illustrations. The book did not sit well with some citizens of the Japanese city of Matsue, and they challenged its presence in schools and libraries. The book was in and out of circulation multiple times, yet ultimately remained on shelves, with schools offering proper educational support for students. Nakazawa’s widow has said that the author’s opinion was “that he must share with children accounts of the miseries of the war and the atomic bombing to prevent a recurrence.”

#4: “Sex Criminals” (2013-20)

Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky

The title of this one should be a glaring hint that the book isn’t for children. However, nothing can stop the complaint train. The book depicts a couple, who upon sleeping together, realize they can freeze time. Though the book was challenged multiple times in 2016, the most memorable problem the comic had was with Apple. The tech giant banned the second issue of “Sex Criminals” from the Comixology app back in 2013, citing explicit content. However, the issue was available on other Apple-related sources, so the entire thing was a little odd. Perhaps a beef with Comixology?

#3: “Persepolis” (2000)

Marjane Satrapi

“Persepolis” tells the story of the author’s childhood: growing up during the Iranian Revolution. It has been subject to great critical acclaim since its release, and has even been turned into an award-winning film. The book was considered controversial in the Middle East, but not taken off any shelves. In the States, however, is where problems arose. The main complaint was that the book was “Islamic Literature”, and given the sensitive nature of the Islamic reputation in the United States, school boards felt it did not belong in their libraries. The book, however, is clearly against fundamentalism, so we can safely say many of the complaining parties hadn’t really cracked open the book.

#2: “Boiled Angel” (Early 1990s)

Mike Diana

This one is… something. In 1991, a California police officer came across a copy of one of the issues of Mike Diana’s “Boiled Angel” series. The story, the officer found, bore a remarkable resemblance to the Gainesville Ripper murders, which at the time were unsolved. The police then paid Diana a visit, and he briefly became a suspect. He was ruled out with DNA analysis. Strike one for “Boiled Angel”. The second time the series got him into hot water was when he was charged with obscenity by the state’s attorney Stuart Baggish. He was convicted, and became the first artist to be convicted of obscenity in the US.

#1: “Maus” (1980-91)

Art Spiegelman

The Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel “Maus” has been in the news lately, however it isn’t the first time the book has been challenged. There are a number of reasons people were offended by the novel, which perhaps comes with the territory of holocaust-themed literature. “Maus” tells the story of author Spiegelman’s father’s experiences during World War II. The different cultures are represented by animals, for example Germans are cats, Jewish are mice, Polish are pigs, etc. The book was challenged in California for its depiction of the Polish, and also pulled from shelves in Russia because of the image of a swastika on the cover. More recently, a Tennessee school board banned the book, claiming it was too “adult-oriented” for use in their schools.
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