FCBD Books Now Must All Be for All Ages

In previous years, the Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) committee has required that Gold titles (which participating retailers must purchase) be suitable for all ages, but Silver titles were able to put out more mature work with appropriate labeling. That’s good, since some comic publishers, like Fantagraphics, TCAF, and Alternative (to name past years’ participants), don’t focus on selling kid-friendly books, and so their FCBD comic can thus be reflective of their product lines.

This year, however… the participating publisher information has gone out, and the statement “Your book should be for all ages and contain no nudity.” has been added to the contract requirements for Silver-level participants.

Now, I can guess why. The Gordon Lee case has been running for over three years now. That retailer gave a comic containing nudity to a child by accident, and Georgia has been trying to prosecute him for the mistake ever since. The particular comic in question was a FCBD Alternative Comics sampler containing (among much other material) a historical, non-sexual presentation of a naked man. I can imagine that those behind FCBD aren’t pleased that their event, geared towards gaining positive press and promotion for the comic industry and specifically brick-and-mortar comic retailers, is mentioned in that context.

But are we really served by showing only a sanitized, kid-friendly version of comics? Shouldn’t the full range of publications be able to be represented on this day for outreach to potential new readers? What if a shop wants to sell comics to more people than just kids?


  • Tim O'Shea

    FCBD is not going away any time soon. If the Gordon Lee case ever gets resolved and the industry can see that in its rear view mirror then maybe FBCD’ll rescind this new policy.
    I’m just glad there’s been no frivolous civil suit from some parent who had a child that got an age inappropriate comic on FCBD (Gordon Lee’s shop can’t be the only one to make a simple mistake [and I know his did not occur on FCBD], he’s just the only one to be absurdly prosecuted).

  • Tim, yes, mistakes happen, and they will continue to do so, so long as people are human.

    I admire the way my store does it — they hand me the books early. I can review them, and while reading, I make note of anything my retailer may be concerned about, given our area and environment. Since he knows his customers best, he can determine not only which books aren’t kid-suitable, but which will be most entertaining to particular audiences.

    And I know, in all of this, excessive violence will be considered ok, because I live in the US.

  • Carol Burrell

    “And I know, in all of this, excessive violence will be considered ok, because I live in the US.”

    I have to admit, the first thing that occurred to me was that I want to publish a book that’s 23 pages of fisticuffs, bar brawls, spaceship explosions, car crashes, and generic shootings, then have a tiny image on page 24 with a glimpse of naked gentleman parts. But I already know which part would get the reaction, so there’s really no point, other than to get it out of my system.

    It’s crazy-making.

  • I have mixed feelings. I don’t think that nudity is really appropriate for FCBD books, but that doesn’t mean that there can’t be FCBD comics geared towards adults.

    As a retailer who participates in the event, we do our best to be careful about who gets which comics on that day. We separate out the all age ones from the regular ones and have them on two tables one of us stands behind to help people pick and try to keep kids from taking something they shouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean that we couldn’t turn our heads for a second and have it happen. Or that an adult would grab an adult comic and hand it to a kid moments later. And I know plenty of adults who don’t want nudity or graphic violence in the comics they read either. Requiring the comics to be “all ages” might be the “safe” way, or the “politically correct” way to keep a bad situation from happening. And yes, it might eliminate some publishers from participating in the event. But it’s only one day, a typically busy day for stores, and a good retailer can show those interested in those interested in the more adult themes comics and graphic novels that would interest them without needing to use a free comic book as a tool.

    The “all ages” gets a negative vibe from people sometimes, but it doesn’t need to.
    There ARE ways to write a comic book that can appeal to all ages. It would be “safe” for retailers and probably the best way to increase readership across the board. Think of it – parents & children reading the SAME comics! Gosh, it’d be like, well like Star Wars, where every generation enjoys those movies.

  • If you don’t want to risk giving an inappropriate FCBD comic to a kid (a very reasonable desire), why order the ones for adults in the first place?

    And yeah, I wouldn’t be against this so much if all-ages books were more like Owly or Bone, less sanitized pap talking down to the audience.

  • The problem is that we don’t get to see them before we order them. Now, if I could get a PDA or something before hand then I would do exactly that. Ideally that’s what I would prefer – not to limit publishers but rather, to give retailers a chance to review the product from cover to cover before ordering it. But that doesn’t seem to be an option, even though I did mention it in the survey the FCBD committee gave to participating retailers.

    Typically we try not to order things with nudity in them. But without seeing what we’re ordering, and with only a small blurb describing the book, that can be tricky. Sure, I could find it during the time between when they arrive at the store and the day of the event, but I hate to not put out a comic book that I had to pay for.

  • hmm.. I know you can make a good non-offensive book for adults. I think the concern is where this is taking FCBD.

    Kids are a priority for this event and I think it’s a good thing the Gold level books are all age friendly for them. But I don’t think the comic industry should be too choosy about who their new customers are.

    Adult books for adult readers ought to be included too. Especially considering FCBD is the largest promotion the industry has for getting new potential readers into a comic shop. Do we want to project to those curious adult readers that comics are all comics are tame enough so kids can read them too?

    There has been a number of R rated comic related movies made (Sin City, 300, etc..) and it would be nice if there was something for people that enjoyed that type of material.

  • Lisa, whether or not you see them (which I agree, would be useful), aren’t the Mature ones labeled as such in the ordering information?

  • Johanna, I wish that were the case, but it is not. There is not a rating system for comics. Some might say “not appropriate for all ages,” but most don’t. And we have the situation last year where Astounding Wolfman was a book good for probably teens and up, but after that comic there was a sneak preview of Britt – a comic for a more mature audience – with a panel showing a guy in a room full of what looked like a variety of dildos. We weren’t given any info on Britt when we bought the Wolfman comic, but if I’d been able to preview a full issue from cover to cover, I’d have seen it.

  • I thought the Wolfman comic was just all around inappropriate, with the excessive violence and copious amounts of gore and all. The joke panel you refer to didn’t bother me, because you had to know what a dildo was to think that’s what you were seeing.

    But this just shows the problem with rules like “must be all ages” — reasonable people disagree on what the kiddies should be protected from.

  • Randy Lander

    Based on comments from a retailer forum by one of the FCBD committee members, it looks like this wasn’t so much a FCBD committee decision as a bit of legalese from Gold slipping into Silver.

    Which doesn’t change the fact that as retailers, we’re probably stuck with everything all-ages. Given that at least 50% of my traffic on Free Comic Book Day is adults *with* kids, and in past years I’ve been able to turn new readers on to books like Queen & Country or Scott Pilgrim (to name only two), I’m more than a little disappointed.

    With any luck, it’s a legalese mistake that will get corrected. But given Diamond’s records of correcting mistakes, I’m not holding my breath. And I’m also not 100% certain of this, it’s just the impression I got.

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