This is a logo I created several years ago
when the issue of warning labels on comic books was a big deal,
with legal systems, moral "majorities" and certain easily
offended people being very much in favor of a ratings system for
comics (beyond the already constrictive Comics Code Authority),
while many creators were offended by the idea that there should
be age restrictions to their work, and shopowners did not want
outside people telling them how they could arrange their merchandise.
It seems to me that the problem stemmed more from the attitudes of those reading the comics than of those selling them, in that censorship was being advocated by these people in defiance of any rights, freedoms or common sense. Meantime, I could see that concerned parents would not want a copy of, say, Verotika falling into the unsuspecting hands of their small kids who went in looking for a Superman fix (heck, I remember being five and having my mother march me back to the store that sold me a copy of Vampirella!).
Part of the problem was the classifications used: Mature Readers! Adults Only! Not for Minors! These distinctions were based almost solely on age, and did not always accurately describe the content of the books on which they were stamped. For example, while Alan Moore's "Swamp Thing" or Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" could be described as Mature Readers titles for the depth of their storytelling, they did not contain any (or little) of the prurient content that is normally associated with such labels. Meantime, while books like Bondage Fairies, Ramba, and Igrat contained lots of art which would definitely be more...shall we say, distinguished tastes, they certainly could not be called mature in any reasonable way, in that they were usually shallow sex/power fantasies. It was not fair to books in the former group that the latter got lumped in with and displayed alongside them, nor was it accurate, for those who wanted such books, to be misled by labels into buying books that were more about story and characters than about large-breasted amazons and imaginative vibrating devices.
I may be talking through my hat here, but I think the big problem for creators was that lumping the more literate books in with the more visual ones would cause them to be overlooked by those people who see a Mature Readers label and immediately think, "Porn". Not only that, but it opened them up to further demeaning labels of obscenity from narrow-minded Church group members and legal career-builders, and any others who fear the power of ideas.
The problem then, from my perspective as a comics creator who would be turning out work of a serious nature that did not necessarily involve nudity, sexual activity or mindless violence, was how to actually address the person picking up the book and tell them that the content of this work may not be suitable for them if they were of that narrow mindset, while at the same time distinguishing myself from those books that are definitely "Not for Minors".
You see, I happen to think that each person develops and matures at an individual rate. Certainly in my own experience I know people in their teens who, through a better developed psychology or greater life experience, have matured quickly to a true adult level. At the same time, I know people in the 30's and higher who still behave as they did when they were sixteen. And, of course, I know all sorts of people in between. Therefore, what is too intense or psychologically confusing for an "adult" of more advanced years may be just everyday fare for somebody younger and less "mature".
On realizing this, I asked myself, "What sort of label could be applied to a book to inform the reader that their grasp of the content will depend entirely on their mindset and their own level of maturity?" The answer was almost immediate: a properly "mature" piece of work can only be misunderstood by someone whose experience or outlook is too narrow to allow them to grasp its meaning. Such people are generally considered "small-minded". Therefore, irrespective of age, the people I would not want reading my books are people with small minds, and so the label should, properly, read "NO SMALL MINDS".
This would act as a warning to anyone of a narrow perspective that the topics I cover might be too broad for them, while at the same time separating my work from that of the sex and violence oriented books by not limiting access according to age.
The visual aspect followed soon after and should be fairly self-explanatory, and hence you see the logo that now appears on the top of my page.
I should mention in closing that while I do claim creatorship of this emblem, I do not claim sole usage of it. I will be contacting the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund to make the logo available to all its members, and make the same offer to readers of this page. If you are a comic book or any other type of creator whose work is mature in the proper sense of the word, and you would like a way to let your audience know this without having your work misclassified as pornography, please feel free to use this logo as you will, either online or in print. There is no charge nor royalty for this; the logo is completely free to use without restriction. The only thing I will ask is that sometime during your use of the image, you mention its source, either by a print credit or a link to my site, and at the very least you let me know where and when you will be using it so I can take some satisfaction from its usage. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let me know where I can see it being used.
Censorship of comics is not the hot issue it was several years ago, but this is a trend that comes and goes in the industry. I do not advocate censorship (nor self-censorship) of any kind, but I also know that it is not a good idea to ignore those who disagree with that, for in the silence of the creators, their strength grows. I hope that the idea I have put forward here will be of some use in pushing back their occasional assaults and keeping the medium I love free from the tyranny of ignorance.
14 September, 2002
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