It appears that Banned Books Week came early to Wallace, Idaho, as the local school bans The Walking Dead comic. Earlier this year, before the school term ended, a nosy former staff member at the school saw one of the students reading a graphic novel. This staff member, who perhaps doesn’t own a television or a computer or even a radio, clutched their metaphorical pearls when they more closely inspected the book. Instead of whatever they expected to find, they saw “graphic imagery,” according to the Shosone News Press. Of course, the book was The Walking Dead, a comic that just ended its longtime run in print and continues unabated as a live-action franchise on AMC. So, this busybody teacher rallied their busybody parent friends and petitioned the school to ban the comic from its library.
Thus, Ol’ Professor Nervous Nellie just ensured that students who would have never touched the comic will now seek it out in earnest. Ironically enough, banning works of literature create interest among younger readers, leading to more of them checking out the “offending” works from the library or goosing the books’ sales. For as long as there has been culture, there is the “culture war.” Usually supported by the overly religious, these campaigns almost never work. Take the example of the Second Coming comic, a story about Jesus Christ partnered with a superhero. Cancelled at DC after an “online petition” went viral, Ahoy Comics stepped in to rescue the series. Adding some sense of danger to works of literature creates just the kind of excitement to get kids interested in today’s streaming-media world. This group bans the Walking Dead comic, and students are sure to look for it elsewhere.
More Bans to Come?
No good banned book, even The Walking Dead comic, should go to waste, however. Instead of just trashing the graphic novels, Wallace High School donated them to the local public library. Of course, here’s the rub: their library is part of an interlibrary loan group that provides access to 500,000 titles, including those at the Wallace Public Library. This is a great asset for students in the rural district, because they can get their hands on physical copies of books they might not otherwise. Of course, this also means that they can likely get their hands on copies of The Walking Dead comic, to say nothing of other great banned books like Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The Diary of Anne Frank, and countless other titles that will corrupt the young, wholesome minds of these students with their frank depictions of life, sex, and violence.
The solution, according to the News Press, is that school administrators are thinking of instituting a “two library card system.” A better solution, we might suggest, is to just chill out. Perhaps banned books might have worked in days of yore, but if a child has a smartphone, they have access to the entirety of the internet. With a public wifi connection they are just a few clicks away from hardcore pornography, filmed acts of real violence, and everything else parents worry about. Of course, in reality, they are likely just sharing memes on Tumblr and taking filtered selfies to maintain their Snapchat streaks. There is plenty for parents and teachers to fear from the world, but almost none of it is found in artistic expressions.
Learn the Lessons from Literature and History Already!
For any school that bans the Walking Dead Comic or any other art they fear, all you are doing is driving kids to consume that content in secret. Instead of ripping these books from their grubby, fidget-spinner-stained fingers, take the time to talk with them about what they read. The real way to protect kids from violence or over-sexualization in media is not to try to hide it from them. Rather, you have to engage in every parent’s fourth-worst nightmare: talking to them about these issues. The Walking Dead comic may or may not be “good,” because art is subjective. However, the issues they raise about violence, fear of others, human nature, and society’s resilience are worth a conversation. Stories can be a springboard to both talking about these tough topics and provide some context in which to articulate your family’s values.
At the very least, if they think their parents are into the comic or book or show, it will make them unspeakably lame and they can back to chasing Pokémon or fighting dementors via phone games.
What do you think? Should schools ban The Walking Dead comic or is it just repeated mistakes of the past in the modern day? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below or by sharing this article on social media.
Featured image via Image Comics
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.