Mike Diana and the CBLDF

        The 1980s were an exciting time for comics.   Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns was receiving mainstream attention from magazines like Rolling Stone and Spin.   Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons produced Watchmen, the first and only comic to win a Hugo.  DC was successfully overhauling their classic characters: Superman, Wonder Woman and the Green Arrow.  At Marvel Peter David started his long tenure on the Incredible Hulk and Chris Claremont was scripting the X-Men.  Quality independent comics such as the Hernandez Brother's Love and Rockets, Paul Chadwick's Concrete and Howard Chaykin's American Flagg were also receiving greater attention.    Comics had reached a new level of maturity.   Unfortunately there was a negative side to all this notice.    Comics came under attack by the self appointed censors.
        In 1986, the proprietors of Friendly Frank's Comics in Lansing, Michigan were arrested for selling "obscene comics".    Professionals in the comic book industry contributed to Friendly Frank's defense.  This was the beginning of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF).  One of the CBLDF's latest cases occurred here in Florida.
        Artist Mike Diana was publishing a comic fanzine called Boiled Angel.  Diana's work dealt with such themes as date rape, child abuse and intolerance caused by the abuse of religion.  Diana had earned respect for dealing with these problems in a raw and gritty way.   Diana was arrested for "distribution of obscenity" after he sold two issues of Boiled Angel to an undercover detective posing as a contributing artist.   The prosecution claimed that Diana was guilty of producing obscenity since he work "lacked serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value" (since it did not stack up to such works as The Grapes of Wrath) The prosecution also suggested that Diana's work might inspire or appeal to serial killers.  Mike Diana was convicted on March 1994 in Pinellas County, FL.  The sentence consisted of the following: a $3,000 fine, psychological testing, no contact with minors, 1,248 hours of community service, take a course on journalistic ethics, and three years of probation.  During his probation, Diana's residence may be inspected without warning or warrant.  These searches would determine whether Diana was in possession or even creating anything "obscene".   The Appellate Court overturned the conviction of advertising obscene material since Diana asked for donations in the current issue of Boiled Angel to produce the next.   The court agreed with Diana's attorney that one could not be convicted of advertising material that had not been created yet.  Diana has been denied appeals with Lakeland, Florida Second District Court of Appeal and the United States Supreme Court.  He has since moved to New York where he will be working with CBLDF to satisfy his sentence's community service requirement.  He will be writing articles for the CBLDF newsletter Busted and raise funds at conventions.
         Despite the precedent Diana's conviction may have set, so far no one else has been prosecuted for distributing "obscene" material in Florida.    The case proves the need for the continued existence of the CBLDF.   In the last five years the CBLDF has raised $200,000.  It has done so through art auctions at conventions and by selling exclusive works by some of the top writers and artists in comics.  For more information on the CBLDF, you can check out their web site at www.cbldf.org. The CBLDF will also have tables at both Megacon and Dragoncon.

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