A Comic Law To Make You Marvel

Ignorance of the law is not a defense in Canada. Committing a crime without knowledge of the consequences will not spare you from such consequences. However, there are some interesting laws in this country that many people remain unaware of.

Who Watches The Watchmen?

dicktracyStarting in the 1940’s, comic books with graphic depictions of crime were gaining popularity. Concerned parents were worried about the effects of these comics, and politicians began lobbying to have graphic depictions of criminal acts banned in Canada. They were successful.

In section 163 of the Canadian Criminal Code you will find the following:

(1) Every one commits an offence who…

(b) makes, prints, publishes, distributes, sells or has in his possession for the purpose of publication, distribution or circulation a crime comic.

So what exactly constitutes a crime comic in Canada?

(7) In this section, “crime comic” means a magazine, periodical or book that exclusively or substantially comprises matter depicting pictorially

  • (a) the commission of crimes, real or fictitious; or
  • (b) events connected with the commission of crimes, real or fictitious, whether occurring before or after the commission of the crime.

Yes. It is true. Batman comics are by definition illegal in Canada.

So does this mean you need to quietly burn your collection of first edition Spiderman comics? Not likely. If this law were being enforced in such a strict fashion, Victoria would be deprived of more than one local comic book shop.

Section 163 of the criminal code is more commonly used to restrict the distribution of “obscene material”.

In March 2010, the case of R v. Matheson brought charges against a 27-year-old American citizen, when adult oriented Manga literature was thought to contain child pornography. The offending literature was found on his computer after a search at the border. All charges were later dropped.

Organizations such as the Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund have been set up to help those who must stand trial for their choice of graphic novels.

Thank you to Adam Basterfield, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and composer from Victoria, BC, for the use of his composition for our telephone system.
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