Developments in the situation at Rio de Janeiro’s Book Biennial continue to come at a rapid pace. Courts Saturday backed Mayor Marcelo Crivella’s attack on LGBTQ comics, which started Thursday when he posted a video message on Twitter ordering booksellers to stop selling copies of the 2010 graphic novel Avengers: The Children’s Crusade. Crivella, who once called homosexuality “a terrible evil” and is a bishop of the evangelical megachurch Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, wants the books placed in sealed plastic bags with warnings about their content, which he claimed was inappropriate for minors. The content in question is a romantic relationship and kiss between two male charters, Wiccan and Hulkling, which is not inappropriate for anyone.
In the ensuing roller coaster, copies of the book sold out with an hour of Crivella’s initial announcement. However, the next day, Crivella ordered fifteen city officials to scour the festival and forcibly censor or confiscate any copies of the book. When the festival organizers responded with a legal motion to block Crivella, one which was initially supported by courts, it seemed that common sense had won the day over anti-LGBTQ bigotry. However, according to Brazilian independent newspaper O Globo, Saturday saw a reversal of fortunes, as higher-ranking court officials overturned the original ruling and lent support to Crivella’s efforts, saying that Crivella’s case “sufficiently demonstrated” the need to avoid “risks of injury to public order” by censoring the books. Emboldened, Crivella refocused his efforts Saturday, ordering officials to forcibly censor not only Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, but also any book featuring homotransexualism, a term presumably taken from Matthew 22:39, in which Jesus famously said, “Love your neighbor as yourself, but under no circumstances let the children see that homotransexualism.”
But in another twist, popular Brazilian YouTuber Felipe Neto, who counts over 34 million followers on the video service, decided to buy 14,000 books, the entire stock of LGBTQ books at the festival, and distribute them for free in sealed plastic bags with a sarcastic message about censorship, reading, “This book is inappropriate – for backward and prejudiced people.” Would Brazil be interested in trading him to us for some of America’s YouTubers?
Acabei de autorizar a compra de mais 4 mil livros para esgotar de vez o estoque de livros com temática LGBT na bienal.
Serão 14 mil livros distribuídos GRATUITAMENTE para quem quiser, amanhã (sábado – 07/09), na Bienal do Livro do Rio de Janeiro.
— Felipe Neto (@felipeneto) September 6, 2019
And according to Neto, he succeeding in giving away the 14,000 books before officials arrived at the festival.
ACABOU!!! CONSEGUIMOS DISTRIBUIR TODOS OS 14 MIL LIVROS ANTES DA CHEGADA DOS AGENTES DA CENSURA!!!!
Estamos todos muito emocionados e felizes! VENCEMOS!!! pic.twitter.com/8j9jrnJwMC
— Felipe Neto (@felipeneto) September 7, 2019
Neste momento a tropa do Crivella quer invadir a Bienal com 20 homens ARMADOS, no meio de crianças.
Não tem mais livro LGBT pra confiscar. Todos foram distribuídos.
— Felipe Neto (@felipeneto) September 7, 2019
“At this moment Crivella’s troops want to invade the Biennale with 20 ARMED men, among children,” Neto tweeted. “No more LGBT books to confiscate. All were distributed.”
And that’s where things stand right now, though the festival is set to continue Sunday. Meanwhile, comic book artist Jim Cheung, who co-created Avengers: The Children’s Crusade with writer Allan Heinberg, posted a message of support for LGBTQ people on Instagram.
View this post on Instagram
Teddy & Billy (2019) . It was with great surprise today, to learn that the mayor of Rio de Janeiro decided to ban the sale of my (and Allan Heinberg's) book, Avengers:The Children's Crusade, for alleged inappropriate material. . For those not familiar with the work from 2010, the controversy involves a kiss between two male characters. . Now I don't know what prompted the mayor to seek out a work that is almost a decade old, and that had already been on sale for many years, but I can say honestly, that there was no hidden motivation or agendas behind the work in promoting any particular lifestyle, nor targeting any unique audience. The scene merely depicts a tender moment between two characters who are in an established relationship. . As an artist, my passion is to tell stories; stories of great heroism, compassion and love, with as authentic and diverse characters as possible. Characters that depict every walk of life and color, whether they be black or white, brown, yellow or green. . The fact that this book, from almost a decade ago, is now being drawn into the spotlight by the mayor perhaps only highlights how out of touch he might be with the current times. The LGBTQ community is here to stay, and I have nothing but love and support for those who continue to struggle for validity and a voice to be heard. . I hope the beautiful people of Brazil, the wonderfully diverse and proud nation, will see through this political 'noise' and place their focus on the light, and on ways to unite, rather than help sow the seeds of conflict and division . #TeddyAltman #Hulkling #BillyKaplan #Wiccan #YoungAvengers #AvengersChildrensCrusade #MarvelComics #Marvel #Comics #MCU #pencils #pencildrawing #process #JimCheung #LoveNotHate #LGBTQ
The story has penetrated the mainstream international news cycle, with stories on all major comic book websites as well as mainstream outlets like CNN. Even chicken website ComicBook.com took time out from posting about the new McDonalds Spicy BBQ Chicken Sandwich to write about the events in Rio. In addition, social media users around the world have been busy responding to Crivella’s tweets with messages of protest or, even better, images of gay comic book characters kissing.
The saga continues, and we’ll keep you updated.