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Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund reforms to help U.S. man charged with child pornography

Here’s some friendly advice for Canadians returning from the U.S. after the July 4th festivities: be careful what reading material you bring back across the border.

Last year, a U.S. man was charged with possession and importation of child pornography after customs officials discovered explicit manga images on his laptop. Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, told the website Comic Book Resources:

My understanding with regard to the material at issue is that it includes fantasy comics drawn in a variety of manga styles. One of the items is believed to be a doujinshi, or fan-made comic, of the mainstream manga series Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. Another is believed to be a comic in the original Japanese, depicting stick figure-like [characters] in various sexual positions. In all cases, the authorities are targeting expressive art and not any photographic evidence of a crime.

As the case moves closer to court (no date is scheduled yet), last week the CBLDF announced it is forming a coalition to financially and legally assist the man, who faces up to a year in prison and the addition of his name to Canada’s sex offender registry. The like-minded Canadian organization, The Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund, is also reforming to help raise his estimated $150,000 in legal fees. Largely dormant since the 1990s, the ad hoc fund was established in 1987 to help the owners of Calgary comic shop Comic Legends, who were charged with distributing obscene materials.

Though serious obscenity cases are increasingly rare, back in early May, Q&Q reported on a Canada Customs seizure of comics heading to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. On May 6, TCAF participants Tom Neely and Dylan Williams were stopped at the Buffalo, N.Y., border, and had copies of Blaise Larmee’s graphic novel Young Lions and black-humour anthology BLACK EYE 1: Graphic Transmissions to Cause Ocular Hypertension confiscated by customs officers.