New documentary looks at the only cartoonist to be jailed for obscenity in the USA


For the good of society, American cartoonist Mike Diana was jailed without bail in 1994. So ruled a jury at the Pinellas County court in Florida, taking just 90 minutes to find him guilty of obscenity following a week-long trial in March of that year.

Diana was the first – and to date, only – cartoonist to be jailed for his work in the USA.

His ordeal began when one of his Boiled Angel comics – with the stated aim of being “the most offensive zine ever made” – ended up in the hands of a law enforcement officer in California in 1991. The shocking (and often funny) depictions of sex and violence reminded him of a series of then-unsolved murders in Gainesville, Florida. He passed his suspicions on to counterparts in the Sunshine State who took a blood sample from Diana. The cartoonist was found to have had absolutely no links with the crime but prosecutor Stuart Baggish took one look at the comic “and knew right away what [he] was looking at was obscenity”.

Boiled sold only 300 copies by mail and the only issue sold in Dian’s hometown was to an undercover police officer. Although quickly released, Diana was given three years probation, ordered to pat a $3,000 fine, given 1,248 hours community service and ordered to avoid contact with minors.


A new documentary is in the works about Diana and the limitations of the right to free speech in the face of outrage and cries of obscenity. The Trial of Mike Diana, created by cult filmmaker Frank Henenlotter, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to finish the film and to cover the costs of a legal review typical of a project which deals heavily with the American court system.

The documentary features many of those who were there during the 1994 trial, including Baggish, as well as interviews with Diana fans and supporters Neil Gaiman, Peter Bagge and Stephen Bissette.

Diana will contribute original animation to the film.

For a medium that lends itself so well to the light-hearted, cartoons have frequently fallen victim to censors. More than two decades on from the sentencing of Diana, they still face prosecution, persecution, death threats and abuse worldwide. Last year’s attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo was the most high-profile example of just how dangerous the medium can be.

Could history be repeated in the USA? Are the freedoms many Americans take for granted at risk? As Henenlotter puts it: “Freedom of Speech doesn’t mean anything if your art is declared ‘obscene’ and one man’s art could be another man’s obscenity. That’s the battle we explore in this documentary: an improbable collision between comic-book art and the First Amendment.”

More articles about cartoonists:

Targeted cartoonists show support for Charlie Hebdo

Malaysian cartoonist Zunar says “I will keep drawing until the last drop of my ink”

Ecuadorean cartoonist Bonil facing charges after mocking politician

Indian cartoonist arrested on sedition charges


Irish Justice Minister’s erotic novel referred to censor’s board

A novel published by current Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter in 1989, has been referred to the country’s Censorship of Publications Board, according to reports.

Laura: A Novel You Will Never Forget which features a politician pressures his lover to have an abortion, is currently available on Amazon, coming with the lone user review:

this book by alan is his only novel. its about the traumas of adoption in ireland with a bit of fact based on of this book could be true as i was involved with a real life case similar to this book…it,s a must read and should be republished..have plenty tissues at the ready as many a tear will appear in the eye.

Shatter is currently at the heart of a political storm after he used information learned from a Garda briefing to him in his role as Justice Minister to attack a political opponent, flamboyant independent TD (member of parliament) Mick Wallace.

Speaking on a live TV debate, Shatter revealed that Wallace had escaped censure from traffic police after he was seen using his mobile phone while driving. Wallace has been campaigning against the overturning of motoring infringement penalty points for high profile and well-connected figures.

Meanwhile, Shatter’s Fine Gael party has come under attack from anti-abortion activists who believe the centre-right party is set to liberalise Ireland’s strict abortion law. Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny faced protests from anti-abortion protesters during a visit to Boston yesterday.

Over 200 publications are banned in Ireland, including books on abortion and several sex manuals.

The majority of the rest of the banned titles are soft and hardcore porn magazines, including Playgirl and Scamp magazine.

Read the full list below

Register of Prohibited Publications in Republic of Ireland 2010

Index Index – International free speech round up 05/02/13

An unknown gunman in Denmark has shot at a prominent writer and historian who is a critic of Islam. Reports said that Lars Hedegaard was not injured. The perpetrator arrived at Hedegaard’s Copenhagen home today (5 February) pretending to deliver a package, instead firing shots at the Danish writer, missing the intended target. Hedegaard is head of the International Free Press Society, a group claiming that Islam threatens press freedom. He was fined 5,000 Kroner (approximately £575) in 2011 for insulting Muslims in a series of statements.

A woman who claimed she was raped by Somalian authorities and the journalist who interviewed her have today (5 February) been jailed in Mogadishu. Judge Ahmed Adan found the woman guilty of offending the state, who will serve one year in prison after she finishes breastfeeding her baby. Freelance journalist Abdiaziz Abdinuur was charged with offending state institutions through false interviewing and entering a woman’s home without the husband present and is to start his one year sentence immediately. Three other defendants, including the woman’s husband and two others who helped introduce her to Abdinuur were found not guilty and freed. The journalist was detained on 10 January for interviewing the woman who had claimed she was raped by soldiers at a displaced person’s camp where she was living in Mogadishu.

A Singaporean photographer was arrested on 4 February in Tokyo for selling books containing pictures of male genitalia. Leslie Kee was arrested along with two members of staff at a publishing firm on suspicion of obscenity and could be jailed for up to two years and / or fined up to 2.5 million yen if found guilty. The trio were detained for selling seven copies of the book to two customers at Kee’s Tokyo gallery — prompting the fashion community in Japan to jump to their defence. The 41 year-old photographer is well known in Japan and has photographed the likes of Naomi Campbell and Beyonce. Japanese domestic law rules that pictures of genitals must be obscured, a method usually practiced through pixelation.

Debby Wong -

Donald Trump has filed a legal suit against a comedian after proving he is not the spawn of orangutans

The Eritrean government has blocked access to Al Jazeera inside the country. The Qatari TV news network has been unaccessible since 1 February, after the information ministry issued a decree preventing anyone from providing access to its news service. Restaurants, hotels and cafés were particularly targeted and Al Jazeera’s English-language channels were blocked. Eritrean authorities allegedly ordered the ban after Al Jazeera ran stories on demonstrations by Eritrea’s exiles outside Eritrean diplomatic missions in London, Frankfurt, Stockholm, Rome and Cairo in opposition of the government and support of soldiers who staged a mutiny after they stormed the information ministry in Asmara on 21 January. Eritrea holds the highest number of imprisoned journalists in Africa.

Andrew Mitchell, the cabinet minister who resigned following the “plebgate” scandal is to sue The Sun for libel for its reporting of the case. The former government chief whip swore at police officers after they refused him to exit his office through Downing Street’s main gates on 19 September 2012, allegedly saying: “you’re all plebs”. The Conservative MP stepped down from his role a month later. It wasn’t until December that evidence was taken into doubt after CCTV seemed to question the police log and witness reliability. Scotland Yard arrested three police officers in connection with the affair. Mitchell admitted to swearing at the officers but denied using the term “plebs”. He is seeking damages, costs, an apology and an undertaking that the words are not repeated in future.

Donald Trump is suing a comedian after he failed to honour a $5million (£3.1m) lost bet that Trump was the descendent of orangutans. Bill Maher had joked on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show that, if Trump presented him with proof that he was not the product of a tryst between his mother and a primate, he would pay $5million to charity. The business tycoon then proceeded to send a copy of his birth certificate to Maher, along with a note saying “cough up”. Trump said that there was no evidence that the comedian had offered the money as a joke, citing his “pathetic delivery”. Trump then released his birth certificate publicly along with a letter from his lawyer, confirming that he was in fact, entirely human. Maher has failed to offer the cash, prompting Trump to file legal documents in the Superior Court of California on 4 February. Trump has been a prominent voice in the “birther” movement, which claims that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and hence is not eligible to be president.

Ban on public affection in Mexico’s kissing capital

Last August, Manuel Berumen, a university professor, received the shock of his life after kissing his wife as they strolled with their four-year-old son in a public plaza in Leon, Guanajuato. A woman complained about the “indecency” and he ended up in jail.  Berumen was victim of Guanajuato’s anti-obscenity laws, which ban kissing in public. The law was introduced in 2009 under mayor Eduardo Romero Hicks, of the conservative right win National Action Party, (PAN).

Stephanie Zieber

Couple kissing photo from Shutterstock

Berumen had demanded justice for wrong imprisonment and urged that the police officers who arrested him be punished. But now, a local inquiry body, called the Honor and Justice Committee has exonerated the police officers who arrested Berumen and said they were only protecting local law.