In my feature for February’s Print, I discuss how cartoonists have dealt with censorship because they’ve tackled content such as sex, satire and sadism. My story concludes with Mike Diana, whose Boiled Angel fanzine includes all three categories to one degree or another. Most striking is the crude, visceral viciousness of his images, which often reflects his unbridled hostility against the Catholic Church.
Diana has a number of noteworthy fans: Cartoonist-archivist Ethan Persoff calls him a “kind of godfather of internet rage art.” Indeed, the fury of his graphics is so intense that Florida police actually suspected he was a serial murderer. And in 1994, a judge convicted him of publishing, distributing and advertising obscene material.
But Persoff says, “There’s no obscenity in his work, at all. If it’s obscene it’s only obscene for being vomited-out subconscious or adolescent-themed imagery.” Nevertheless, as part of his sentencing, Diana tells me that “I was ordered not to create art. The police were allowed to conduct warrantless, surprise searches to check. I lost my appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court wouldn’t hear my case. So I have to live with the injustice Florida did against the First Amendment.”
Author-cartoonist-editor Peter Kuper is another defender. Literally so: He testified for Diana at his trial as an expert witness. Kuper is also no stranger to the sting of censorship: He experienced suppression as a result of his four-page Ri¢hie Bu$h strip and Abu Ghraib editorial cartoon.
Kuper’s World War 3 Illustrated: 1979-2014 anthology, scheduled for publication this May, will include a six-page illustrated perspective on the Diana trial. Meanwhile, here’s a single-page version he created in the wake of the ’94 judgment, which takes a few visual cues from Art Spiegelman’s attack of MOMA’s 1990 “High & Low” exhibition.
For the full story on banned comics and other titillating reads, pick up Print‘s Sex and Design issue.