For those of you who haven't already heard, I won an auction on eBay last week. That particular
auction was a benefit for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund initiated by noted comics creator,
Jim Lee. Jim generously offered his time (and travel expenses) to any comics retailer in America
for a one-day autographing session at their store, in exchange for a cash contribution to the
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. At the recent DC retailer's meeting in Burbank, California I heard
much discussion of this auction ("Did you hear that Jim Lee is up to $4,700.00 on eBay!?!"), with
everyone being very pleased that Jim's contribution was making so much difference for the CBLDF.
What I did not hear, however, was anyone saying that they were going to bid higher.
This revelation got me to thinking, as I suddenly realized that my original belief that this eBay
auction would end well above $10,000.00 might be wrong. This bothered me more than a little, as I
was well aware from my discussions with director Charles Brownstein that the CBLDF was relying on
it's fundraising efforts during the next two months to cover accumulated past legal expenses, and
to pay for a critical appeal to a case that was lost in Texas. This was an instance where the
outcome of the auction meant a great deal to the future functional viability of the CBLDF.
Why do I care so fervently in the future of the CBLDF? Let me start by pointing out that I was born
in Germany, in 1955, to a mother who spent the her first five years in school being taught by Nazi
Party-selected teachers. My mother repeatedly warned me as a child, even after we immigrated to
America, to never speak out, or let my opinions be known, because I never knew when the government
might be listening. She had seen first-hand the horrors of oppression, as the Nazi administration
in her elementary school actively encouraged the children to report any discussions that their
parents might be having at home that were critical of the government, or the war effort. As a result
of these interrogations, some very young children in my mother's classes inadvertently had their
parents arrested by the Gestapo. Those traumatic experiences placed a permanent fear of speaking
out in my mother's mind.
Like most young people, I chose to abandon my mother's teachings during my teens. During my years at
the University of Colorado, I became quite politically active, first advancing very conservative
right-wing causes, and then later swinging over to the radical left. In the end, I realized that
both sides were populated by people who really were far more interested in advancing their own
personal agendas than having any real commitment to positive social change. As a result of those
negative experiences, I decided to stop participating in any further organized political efforts,
and instead dedicated the rest of my life to initiating positive changes on my own. The one constant
that I noted in all my efforts, however, was the critical necessity for free speech. No matter which
side of the political spectrum I occupied on any given day, I found that I could usually gain some
measure of enlightenment by simply listening to those on the other side of the aisle.
I also learned during my politically active years that my mother's fears were well-founded, even in
America. Once, while participating in a peaceful anti-war demonstration in the streets of Boulder, a
man with a movie camera was pointed out to me. He was supposedly recording the demonstration for the
local police, with copies of his film to made available to the FBI. I started watching for similar
individuals at other demonstrations I attended, and a clear pattern quickly emerged. My mother was
right, the government really was watching! In more recent years, records pried loose under
the Freedom of Information act have clearly shown a pattern of the government spying on many of us
for seemingly innocuous activities.
More specific to the world of comics, over the past ten years there as been a steady number of
criminal cases brought against individual comics creators and retailers by over-zealous local
prosecutors seeking to eliminate certain types of comics they don't like. These cases have
usually been ruinous to the individuals being persecuted, as they not only face jail time and
fines, but also must shoulder the burden of enormous legal fees. The critical aspect to these
cases of which I think everyone should be aware is that they are remarkably random. Most of these
cases were brought about on only the flimsiest pretext, and often involve comics that most of us
would consider reasonably mainstream. The message in this terrible pattern is that being arrested
for creating, or selling, a comic with unpopular content is a risk that all of us in the professional
comics community take on every single day. Quite literally, any of us could be arrested by our
government, and charged with crimes that might lead to incarceration and a destruction of our
businesses and personal reputations, with absolutely no warning.
When it comes down to it, Freedom of Speech is an oxymoron. There is absolutely nothing free about it.
If we want to keep our right to speak, write, and draw whatever we wish we have to struggle each and
every day. I'm not sure what it is in the flawed personalities of so many people that makes them wish
to butt into the lives of those who don't agree with their particular world view, and to punish
them harshly for their differing opinions, but it is a clear and present danger to all of us. That
is why I feel really good about sending a check to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund today for
$6.700.00. The long knives might not be out for me at this particular moment, but I know they're
coming, eventually. The forces of oppression are growing in strength in this paranoid post 9/11 age,
and the implications are far more wide-reaching than just "Homeland Security." Once those vicious
dogs have been loosed, they will run wild until they are once again brought into a check by our
legal system. That is the greatest strength of America. We can see dark periods of repression,
such as 1946-1956, when everyone lives in fear, but eventually the powers of our Constitution, and
the Bill of Rights, are restored. But only because the brave few choose to fight. In the coming dark
days the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund will be our only bulwark against the tides of oppression.
I fervently hope you will join me in supporting the CBLDF. Only by sticking together do we have
any hope for the future.
For those of you attending Mid-Ohio-Con, I will be the auctioneer for a CBLDF benefit auction at
the show. The auction will be held on Sunday, December 1st, at 3 PM. Contributions of items to be
auctioned will be gladly accepted right up until the time the auction starts. If you can't attend,
and would like to mail in some items to be auctioned, please contact
Charles Brownstein at CBLDF Staff.
I'll return to the topic of utilizing the Internet to market comics next week...
Please send your e-mails to
your letters to:
Mile High Comics, Inc.
Attn: Chuck Rozanski
2151 W. 56th Ave.
Denver, CO 80221