For two years, Image Comics has partnered up with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund to publish "Liberty Comics," a series of special one-shots devoted to the expression of free speech with all proceeds going towards the CBLDF's continued support of First Amendment rights for comic book professionals everywhere. The streak continues for a third year with "Liberty Comics 2010," the latest incarnation of the benefit book scheduled to arrive in comic book shops on October 6, 2010. CBR News spoke with "Liberty Comics" editor and "Beanworld" creator Larry Marder to learn more about this year's offering.
"The proceeds of 'Liberty Comics' are donated to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the First Amendment rights of the comic book community," Marder told CBR of the book and fund. "That includes our retailers, creators, publishers, librarians and readers. The Fund provides legal referrals, representation, advice, assistance and education to these folks when they find themselves the target of government interference in violation of their constitutional rights of free speech. The constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech is the bedrock upon which artists can build our creations. In the United States, we make art without fear of subsequently being censored or jailed by a government who finds personal expression to be distasteful for political or any other reasons. The First Amendment is often under fire from many angles. Our organization is focused on vigilance and being the first line of protection when those rights are under governmental assault."
Marder, who was the executive director of Image Comics through much of the 1990s, serves on the CBLDF's Board of Directors, though his involvement as the editor of "Liberty Comics" is a recent development. "Eric Stephenson of Image Comics and Charles Brownstein of CBLDF floated the idea past me during the run of WonderCon last spring," he said. "I thought about it for a day and decided to accept the responsibility. Even though I was busy up to my eyeballs in other commitments, 'Liberty Comics' is a project too near and dear to my heart to not to give it my best shot. As a member of the CBLDF's Board of Directors, I was happy to roll up my sleeves and get busy in a project that's so important to the Fund."
As the project's editor, Marder follows in the footsteps of previous "Liberty Comics" editors Scott Dunbier and Jamie S. Rich. "Those guys are real editors. By nature, I'm more of an aggregator," said Marder. "My pitch to the creators for 'Liberty Comics' was exactly the same as when I was at the helm of Image Comics in the '90s. 'Here is a chance to do whatever you like. Go for it. Swing for the fences. I'll be rooting for you from the bench.'"
Clearly, Marder's pitch worked, as "Liberty Comics 2010" features a wide array of talented names including "Sin City" creator Frank Miller, DC Comics CCO Geoff Johns and cover artist Jim Lee, to name a few. "I had about 90 days to find volunteers to ask them to break into their busy schedules and donate their valuable time and energy to 'Liberty Comics,'" said Marder. "Some creators I was able to ask face to face, others through email. I'm happy with the diverse crew of folks who are in the book. I'm even happier at how enthusiastic everyone has been to be part of this project given such short notice at such a busy time of the year."
"Liberty Comics 2010" is filled with a diverse lineup of creators and stories, including a Paul Pope tale that's "based on a Thomas Jefferson quote [that] he described as 'a Jack Kirby cosmic battle in living wood.'" Marder also pointed out a new original short story from Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, a "Conan" story created by Darick Robertson and a new tale from Don Simpson. "I was able to haul Don out of retirement with a brand new Megaton Man story," said Marder. "His acerbic wit is as sharp as ever and it's an interesting take on contemporary comics and popular culture."
Additionally, the latest round of "Liberty Comics" features previews of upcoming creator-owned projects, including Scott Morse's "The Contrarian" and Ben McCool and Billy Tucci's "Alexander Nevsky" graphic novel. For Marder's own part, the editor will supply readers with a new "Beanworld" yarn called "Why We Fight," a story that he's been developing for quite some time. "It's a cartoon contemplation of the First Amendment featuring a bunch of my characters, but it takes place outside of the 'Beanworld' continuity," he said. "I've been talking to Charles Brownstein about creating this piece for years now."
Speaking of "Beanworld," Marder said that he's very deeply immersed in working on the next "Beanworld" graphic novel, titled "Something More." He said: "It's the first volume in the 'Summertime' story arc. It will be about the same length as the previous novel and all sorts of most peculiar things happen in it. It's hard to talk about it because out of the 226 pages of the story, almost anything I talk about will fall in the realm of spoiler alert after about page 40 of the book. That many things change and characters are introduced! I'll say this though to the folks that understand the language of the Beanworld: this book will delve deeply into the mysteries of Cutie Fun Chow, aka The Orbulator Express. I'm having a lot of fun with 'Something More!'"
But beyond "Beanworld," Marder is currently engrossed in "Liberty Comics," a book that serves an all-too-important purpose for the entire comic book community: supporting the CBLDF's efforts to defend the right to free speech. Fans who purchase a copy of "Liberty Comics" are effectively making a donation to the CBLDF, but it's a donation that comes with tangible benefits for the reader.
"The benefits are the story and art created by their favorite artists specifically for this book," said Marder. "As far as price and value go, this year's package is actually a 48 page book, so that's an extra eight pages for the same cover price as last year. In this economy, I believe that's a pretty good deal!"
"Liberty Comics 2010," edited by Larry Marder with stories from various creators and covers by Jim Lee and Darick Robertson, arrives in stores on October 6, 2010 for $4.99.