Two comics withdrawn “due to child pornography illustrations”
It's not just in the United States that some books are pulled from the shelves. The Libraries of the City of Montreal are following suit with the withdrawal of two comic strips by Frenchman Bastien Vivès, we learned on Saturday from Le Devoir.
The reasons for the banishment of several hundred American school and public library books diverge, however. Like the children's book Le rose, le bleu et toi! by Quebec author Élise Gravel, who tackles the issue of gender identity.
What the Libraries of Montreal criticize comics for Mental Discharge and The Melons of Anger by Vivès – aimed at an adult audience – is the “presence of realistic and very explicit child pornography illustrations; illustrated and unreported sexual violence perpetrated on minors; lack of consent of the minors involved (between 10 and 17 years old); of the presence of numerous illustrated scenes of incest”, can we read in the article of the Montreal daily which had access to an internal email sent on March 3 to the Libraries of Montreal.
Discomfort and bullying
Since a petition in 2022 forced the Angoulême Festival to cancel a carte blanche exhibition by Bastien Vivès – the festival management citing “threats” against the author and the organizers – the work of the cartoonist has been the object of many criticisms. In addition, at the beginning of January, a preliminary investigation was opened in France for the dissemination of images of child pornography by the Brigade for the protection of minors against the author and two publishing houses which had published some of his books.
While comics columnist Jean-Dominic Leduc admires several creations by Bastien Vivès, he remembers feeling very uneasy when reading Melons de larage in 2011.
“I bought this book because it's by Bastien Vivès, but I didn't know about the bdcul collection [from the Hammerhead Requins editions]. At the time, I had a feeling of discomfort, because I had detected incest there.”
He hadn't overdone it, but it was out of the question for the columnist to recommend or even talk about this comic. As for the two other books that are the subject of an investigation – Petit Paul (Glénat, 2018) and The Mental Discharge (Les Requins Marteaux, 2018) – he admits not having read them.
Things have since evolved and Jean-Dominic Leduc says that following the revelations concerning Bastien Vivès last year, he canceled a scheduled interview with the author to talk about his most recent publication.
“My problem with Bastien Vivès is above all the online intimidation that he did under a pseudonym where he attacked an author [Emma] saying that she did not know how to draw, that this is not wasn't interesting and it was a good woman's business. That, I have a problem with that!”
For him, this event is symptomatic of the machismo that still prevails in the world of comics.
A problem of centralization< /h3>
When asked why the Montreal Library network acquired these comics in the first place, it is stated in the internal email quoted by Le Devoir that “these two titles were part of a purchase of a batch of erotic comics. They were therefore not acquired deliberately”.
Former bookseller, Jean-Dominic Leduc believes that the centralization of purchases by the Libraries of Montreal may have contributed to this “error”, a practice that does not not done in other libraries in Quebec, he argues.
“[Les Bibliothèques de Montréal] have cut off contact between the bookseller and the librarian, explains the columnist. When these people talk to each other, they teach each other things. It is important. Wanting too much to centralize everything, well, mistakes like that will happen more and more.”
An example of cancel culture?
Jean-Dominic Leduc considers that the Montreal Libraries made a good decision by withdrawing the two problematic comics by Bastien Vivès. He adds that this withdrawal cannot be compared with what is happening in the United States where books have been banned, even burned as in Ontario, for ideological reasons.
“There, we don't talk no books that have been banned by a right or left ideology, we are talking about child pornography. It's criminal,” recalls the columnist.
For him, books that have been blacklisted or burned because they deal with the Holocaust or because they make a dated representation of a cultural community are more a matter of “lack of education and perspective” linked to a certain “dogmatism”.