Freedom of speech is supposedly guaranteed by the US constitution, yet in practice a motivated reactionary community can decide something offends their sensibilities and start legal proceedings. The guarantee of freedom of speech doesn’t come with the funds necessary to uphold that freedom in the courts, meaning censorship can occur via a back door method. Why are comics targeted? As Mark Evanier puts it, “It’s a lot easier to get a conviction when someone can’t afford to put up much of a fight”, which makes organisations like the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund extremely necessary. It’s supported by most major players across the American comics industry, although as of this 2014 publication it’s notable that Marvel weren’t dipping their hands in their corporate pockets.

From 2008 to 2016 the CBLDF issued a fundraising anthology comic, the great and the good providing strips, often little extras featuring their characters. Among those presented between 2008 and 2012 you’ll find The Boys, Channel Zero, Criminal, Grendel, Milk & Cheese and The Walking Dead. 125 different creators are named on the back cover, among them some of the biggest names in comics. The sample art features Mark Millar and John Paul Leon’s tale of an ageing Dracula and Carla Speed McNeil’s wise words on medical terminology, but this isn’t one of those anthologies front-ending the celebrities and filling the pages with the well-meaning. You’re guaranteed A-listers. To unfairly single just one creator out, J. H. Williams III makes his point succinctly over a beautifully drawn two page spread stressing how there is no single correct route or application.

There is some crossover, but the strips broadly fit into four categories: those using recognisable properties, those commenting on free speech or censorship, personal experiences and those where creators experiment with new ideas. Not every concept needs a five volume graphic novel series. Editors of later individual issues suggested a theme, but the content still matches those categories. Nearly everything here is good. It covers many moods, and if a couple of writers become too preachy, most make their points succinctly and there’s an awful lot to be learned, particularly from the experiences of those who’ve lived in countries where free speech is a dream, not a reality.

The CBLDF uses many other methods of fundraising. For more information go to cbldf.org. As of 2021 Marvel still isn’t listed among the corporate sponsors.