Maus’ ban increased his sales. It also created an opportunity to increase comic book readership. Here’s how.
As Maus recently illustrated, banning books can be a good deal. Controversy surrounding a Tennessee school district’s decision to ban the seminal literary graphic novel has helped it rise up Amazon’s charts, with different volumes taking the top spot in multiple categories. It’s good to see any comic break into the mainstream, given the Big Two’s struggles to capitalize on the superhero movie boom.
The increased attention given to creator Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece has given the comic book community an opportunity. It might be possible to develop interest in the medium as a whole with Maus as an entry point, at least for the second time. Some comic book retailers look beyond their bottom line to try to achieve this. Comic book retailer Ryan Higgins, owner of Comics Conspiracy in Sunnyvale, Calif., announces pre-orders for the Complete Maus on the store’s website. He also offered to donate “up to 100” copies of Maus to families in McMinn County, Tennessee after the local school board banned it.
Higgins’ tweet introducing the offer went viral, attracting interest from CNN’s Jake Tapper and the LA Times along the way. Higgins told CBR he was “blown away” that new readers were showing interest in Mausthough he was discouraged by the fact that it took the book to be banned to generate it.
Part of Higgins’ dismay over by Maus the ban could be that it’s not the first time he’s made this kind of offer. He did the same when a Texas school board banned genre classics like Y: The Last Man and V for Vendetta last spring, among other books. Higgins isn’t the only one handing out copies of Maus to anyone who requests it. Creators like comic book artist Mitch Gerards (human target, Batman) and screenwriter Gary Whitta (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) also offered to donate copies of Maus to interested parties. Whitta said he donated “about 25 copies” of The complete Mausboth for new readers and people who wanted a copy to give away themselves.
This grassroots effort to counter a school board’s decision to limit access to a beloved literary graphic novel is more than good counterprogramming to the increasingly censored actions of school districts across the country. It offers an outreach plan on behalf of comics as a whole. Free is everyone’s favorite price. Anyone who had the resources to donate multiple copies of banned graphic novels like Maus Where My friend Dahmer to people who have not yet experienced it does a service to the medium.
Platforms like Comixology have offered better access to comics than previous generations. The same goes for libraries that stock graphic novels. Both of these outlets are subject to the whims of corporations and bureaucrats that can leave comic book readers out in the cold.
Comic book fans and creators can respond to these moves by voting with their wallets when they get burned by a company like Amazon or getting involved in local politics when government agencies ban comic books. These actions require a sacrifice of convenience in the form of finding a new way to consume comics and the time commitment to participate in local government. The latter is a particularly important thing fans can do to defend the medium.
Giving away graphic novels is a smaller, random act of kindness in defense of comics. Finding gateways for new comic book readers has been a topic of conversation among fans for decades. Although great progress has been made during the year, the book bans are an example that things could always be better and can often get worse. Taking advantage of book bans by offering free comics in bulk or even single copies from a personal collection is a good way to prove that controversy can create more than just money. It can also foster a love for an art form that remains unrecognized.
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