By Aragones. Letters by – what? – Stan Sakai! Colors by Tom Luth. Published by Marvel and Epic Comics June 1991.
I am picking comics at random from my collection for these daily reads. Well, mostly at random. I should read the new ones I’ve picked up the last few weeks. And I have some review copies. And I’m going to read along with one of my favorite podcasts. But other than that these are random picks. Today was mostly random. I grabbed a new box and started flipping through. There was Groo. On the most recent episode of the Wizards podcast there was a bit of mockery towards Groo. I let them know that I’m trying to collect the entire series, to no one’s surprise. Well, this seems like kismet. I’ll pick a random issue of Groo in this random box and read it today. Damn if it didn’t turn out to be perfect and timely.
Short summary: Groo sees his old friend/foil Weaver. Turns out Weaver has written a best selling book all about how dumb yet violent Groo is to all. The book is a hit. Groo finds out the book names him as a mendicant and lashes out in violence. The king’s censor uses this as an excuse to ban the book. Because it causes violence. He then bans other books, and eventually all books. He tries to usurp the king. Eventually there is a trial to prove that the book caused Groo’s violence. Except Groo cant read. His actions are his own and the censor is led to his death for trying to overthrow the government through lies and banning any thoughts that disagree with him.
It’s amazing how many of the angles we have seen play out recently also play out here. It’s almost as if all of this has happened before and all of it will happen again. The King himself does not want books that cause violence. If someone’s words actually do inspire violent acts then yes, something needs to be done to quiet that voice before people are hurt. But censoring people solely because you don’t agree with them is a path to a totalitarian regime. To fascism.
I handle thousands of books every day at work and guess what, I don’t agree with all of them. Every day there’s a book that makes me roll my eyes. Makes me think I can’t believe someone reads this crap. Puts faith behind it. Allows it to inspire their actions. But that isn’t for me to decide. I also read comics, which were almost censored and banned not that long ago. The more I want something I disagree with to go away, the closer those same censors will come to things I love. When people defend art or speeches that are obscene it isn’t necessarily to protect that piece, it is to use as precedent to protect all.
Again, there are limits though. And speeches or words or any media that incites violence doesn’t get the free pass. Slander and Libel don’t get free passes. There are limits. I can think the new “eat 100 grapes a day diet” book is garbage and no one should read it, but no one is preventing someone else from getting it. However, if the Weaver wrote something like the King became king by fraudulent means and we need to stop the steal at any cost – then those words do have consequences. There is a validity to censoring threats to people. But much like the King’s Censor failed to do so in this issue, it has to be proven. If there’s multiple videos of multiple people firing up a crowd that then committed crimes – that’s evidence. Making up stories about Satan worshipping blood drinkers however may as well fall on illiterate eyes just like Groo’s.
All of this from the guy that draws the little stories in the margins of Mad magazine.