Thank you for taking the time to read this special edition of the Del Rey Manga e-newsletter. I’d like to offer a special welcome to our newest subscribers who have come aboard after the recent New York Anime Festival, or who have come our way from our friends at FUNimation. I promise that future installments will get back to the fun news and information you’ve come to expect, but today brings us special news that I wanted to pass along immediately.
A you may know, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (or CBLDF) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of First Amendment rights for members of the comics community. On October 9, 2008, the CBLDF announced that it will participate as a special consultant to the defense of Christopher Handley, a 38-year-old Iowa manga collector who faces up to 20 years in prision for possession of manga that the government claims to be obscene. Of his collection of more than 1,200 volumes of manga seized by the government, Handley is being prosecuted for images that occur in just a handful of volumes. No photographic content is at issue in Handley’s case.
CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein commented, “Handley’s case is deeply troubling, because the government is prosecuting a private collector for possession of art. In the past, CBLDF has had to defend the First Amendment rights of retailers and artists, but never before have we experienced the Federal Government attempting to strip a citizen of his freedom because he owned comic books.”
Putting the case into further context, CBLDF Legal Counsel Burton Joseph said, “In the lengthy time in which I have represented CBLDF and its clients, I have never encountered a situation where criminal prosecution was brought against a private consumer for possession of material for personal use in his own home. This prosecution has profound implications in limiting the First Amendment for art and artists, and comics in particular, that are on the cutting edge of creativity. It misunderstands the nature of avant-garde art in its historical perspective and is a perversion of anti-obscenity laws.”
Regardless of the extent of one’s involvement in the manga hobby, Christopher Handley’s situation is obviously a point of interest if not outright concern. I encourage—I implore —anybody with any affection for manga to make the effort to learn more about the case. (To start, more information on the case and the CBLDF’s involvement is available here.) After doing so, if you are so moved to make a tax-deductible donation to the CBLDF, you can do so here.
And should you wind up donating to the CBLDF monies that you might otherwise have used to purchase a Del Rey Manga, well, I’ll forgive you. This time.
Ali T. Kokmen
Del Rey Manga