Monday, July 04, 2011

What could possibly be my last post

I really should be working on my last post about the DC news since it´s still not finished. But I received an e-mail form fellow blogger Terry Hooper, from ComicBitsOnline ( I hope you are checking out his excellent blog on a regular basis and have donated if possible ) that touches a subject I have mentioned on a few posts but never really explained at length.

If you wonder about the ominous title, no, I don´t plan to end my blog but given the topic of Today´s post somebody might end it for me. My, what a topic for the 4th of July. Oh, and before I forget : there might be SPOILERS for FEAR ITSELF in it. Just so you´re warned. But here´s Terry´s e - mail ( I hope he doesn´t mind ) :


I was discussing with my brother this German thing in comics of making swastikas into crosses in squares. It basically makes kids ignorant of history but comics...!!

The current Marvel Fear Itself story has giant Nazi robots everywhere - so they'll be censored in German reprints ? Okay, but what about imported US copies - is the store owner breaking the law ? Surely thats a human rights issue - where is the EU human rights law ?

BUT what about films and TV ? Saving Private Ryan - Schindlers List - Swastikas all over the place - did someone doctor the film to make all those swastikas crosses in squares? I was wondering, if not for CBO, then if your blog could do an article explaining how this affects comics, etc.?

Hey, half my family are German and they suffered and I'm the biggest anti - Nazi you'll find : daubing swastikas on walls or putting them on flags or even wearing them as arm bands - YES ! Kick those bastards in jail BUT how can you teach kids that Nazism was evil if you can't depict their symbols - if there is a tv documentary about WW II do all the German scenes have crosses in squares or are they just not there?

Anyhow, it interests me as in one comic I have a character looking at a Nazi flag and saying its a symbol of evil...if I sell that comic to a German am I breaking the law because I am NOT going to put a cross in a square!

Oddly, I guess it would be like the Russians turning red stars into round red blobs in every comic set in Russia or involving the Russian military!

Okay, I´ll try to answer that as best as I can.


Yes, every giant Nazi robot in FEAR ITSELF, every Nazi flag in Captain America and every Nazi armband in HELLBOY is going to be censored in the German version. Speaking about HELLBOY, the series B.U.A.P. 1946 was announced by German publisher CrossCult as book 8 of the series, then skipped and finally published together with B.U.A.P. 1947 in GESCHICHTEN AUS DEM HELLBOY UNIVERSUM. Was it because of the cover ?

Original cover and the german version for the book.

No swastikas, altered or otherwise on this book.

According to § 86 Strafgesetzbuch the graphic depiction of swastikas or variations thereof are verboten. Now you could argue that the paragraph clearly says that one of the exceptions is a work of art, which comics clearly are. Well, not here in Germany and I guess it´s going to take a few decades till somebody here is willing to go to court on that point. In Germany comics don´t have that position.

Which is the reason that not only the swastikas were censored in all issues of Captain America and Wolverine but Danger Girls was put on the Index of youthendangering publications because of the hammer symbols. Another case where a swastika was censored was - funny enough - Blade of the Immortal.


I say funny, because as manga afficionados might know there are no swastikas in the original manga. What happens is that the main character of Blade of the Immortal, Manji, wears a big sun wheel on his back. Now the sun wheel was the blueprint for the swastika the Nazis use and in Japan it´s called " manji " which also is the main character´s name so it makes absolute sense.

The only problem is that mangas are read right to left instead of left to right like western comics. So some mangas are flipped horizontally to get the pictures in the right reading order - for western readers. This is not done on all mangas - one of my favorite mangas CASE CLOSED is printed in the original version - but in the case of Blade of the Immortal is was not a good idea.

Because if you flip the Japanese sun wheel you get the European swastika which then had to be censored.

And that even though in the original version there were no swastikas.

So yes, all swastikas in German comics - and the German versions of foreign comics - are going to be and have been censored. The whole thing is a really touchy subject and sometimes can be pretty absurd. Because people who don´t know anything about comics get to pass judgement about things they haven´t even read. I mean that´s the only reason that sounds sensible why someone would confiscate posters of Art Spiegelman´s MAUS and charge him with spreading Nazi - propaganda.

It really wouldn´t be funny if it wasn´t true.


Now there also are cases where the translation was altered. In the AVENGERS issue that tied into the EIGHT DAY STORYLINE the Juggernaut was kidnapped by other villains and the government liason person asked why they should help him to which Captain America replied : It´s only Poland, right ?

Now the comment refers to the fact that when Nazi Germany annexed Poland most countries didn´t think they would have to get involved. It´s only Poland. Well, in the end everybody suffered under World War II because they thought it didn´t concern them. So Captain America´s comment is not only totally in - character it also emphasizes that for him the war is very present. In the German translation the sentence was omitted although it´s one of the central scenes of the issue. According to the translator it was done because today´s young readers would be too stupid to understand the reference. Now that could be, keeping in mind the low opinion some German publishers have of their readers and the arbitrariness with which comics are translated here. But one still wonders if it had something to do with the fact that the comment kind of references Germany´s Nazi history.

So what about German store owners who sell US comics - or other foreign comics - with swastikas in them ? If you follow the letter of the law they also are breaking the law but normally that is kind of a grey area. Which means it´s okay IF they don´t stir up trouble or somebody wants to get on the news.

There have been several cases where the German Customs Authority has confiscated entire comic deliveries for German comic shops because of one comic that had swastikas. In the case of my former comic shop Comics Pur it happened twice which then led to it going out of business.

Which means if you sell a comic that has a swastika to a German that´s okay as long as he´s outside of Germany. The minute he goes into German territory or you send this comic into Germany because he lives there you come into conflict with the German law. So it´s just as well that there were no swastikas in THE BAT TRIUMPHANT or the other black Tower Comics you sent me.

But what about kids in school ? The depiction of swastikas in history books is allowed and they don´t censor them in documentaries or in movies. So while kids can´t see them in comics they can still see them in all those HITLER´S HELPERS documentaries that are aired on some channels the whole week.

The reason why swastikas are not censored in movies is officially because it would be too much work to alter every frame of a movie although there is also a lot of money involved so bribery certainly plays a big part. I mean, comics and video games have no big interest groups behind them and are easily targeted every time youth protection is the topic. So comics and video games have to censor swastikas. With movies there is a lot of money involved and there are some big multinational interest groups behind it so they don´t have to censor swastikas.

One of the difficult things to explain to foreign people is why movies in Germany that are labeled as ONLY FOR 18 YEARS OR OLDER still are not uncut. That´s because according to German law only because you are allowed to drive a car, drink beer and vote that still doesn´t mean you are a consent citizen and know what´s best for you. In every discussion in Germany I have participated in or that I followed about censorship sooner or later point is raised " There has to be someone who controls and decides what people are allowed to see or paint or write or create. "

And mostly they can´t even explain why. There has to be an institution that controls the information aside from what is regulated by the law that is above the law and is not composed of experts. In Germany there is the FSK for movies, the Freiwillige Selbst Kontrolle ( Voluntary Self Control ) which is in fact not free because if you want to get your movie into cinemas or DVD stores in Germany you need their approval.

Now I´m not saying there should be no rating system in Germany. A rating system makes no sense in comics but I can live with it in movies. But why does Germany need to have the worst rating system of them all ? In America - for example - there are ratings like NC 13 because of foul language, adult situations and nudity. In Germany it´s just NC 13 without giving any reasons why. Now how should a parent know if his child can see the movie or not ? They don´t know why the movie has gotten the rating.

Last year there was an iniciative by parent groups to put the reasons for the ratings on movies but the reaction of Germany´s minister of family Ursula von der Leyen was to make the rating labels bigger. Without putting the reason for the rating on the movie. That´s how democracy works in Germany.

What really p - words me off is that the FSK always says it has to censor movies to protect the youth. Okay, why does this apply to adults ? I don´t know. But maybe the FSK is just used to give statements without having to explain them. According to the FSK their ratings are not pedagogical recommendation, they are to ensure that the physical, psychological and spiritual wellbeing of children and youths of a certain age group is not impaired. That´s a really tall order for an institution where you don´t need to have any knowledge of movies, theology, biology, psychology or child education to be a member.

Fun fact : after World War II the FSK mainly censored or outlawed movies that offered criticism about Germany not being de - Nazified enough. Or mentioned Germany´s Nazi past in any way. But the FSK is also indirectly involved in cases where film distributors changed content through the dubbing. In Hitchcocks NOTORIOUS the Nazis became drug dealers and in CASABLANCA freedom fighter Victor Lazlo - who was on the run from Nazis - became a Norwegian nuclear physicist who was chased by Comissioner Laporte who was never shown on camera. Even in DIE HARD German audiences were not told that the terrorists were Germans.

According to the German constitution censorship doesn´t happen. Well, youth protection does even if they need censorship to implement it.

  • censorship does happen occasionally

  • " Nazis ? I don´t know what the f- word you´re talking about. "

    Now outside of comics and videogames the depiction of swastikas is also illegal which lead to a curious case where t - shirts that featured crossed out swastikas and featured anti Nazi paroles were judged as against German law . So on one side you can´t wear a t - shirt with anti Nazis paroles but you can still attend the annual demonstrations of the German Nazi party on Hitler´s birthday because the Bundesverfassungsgericht ( Germany´s highest court ) has failed twice so far to outlaw them.

    They didn´t have so much problems outlawing the communist party which may be because there are still politicians in Germany´s government that were in Nazi parties.

    So German law is kind of weird and doesn´t always make sense. I can understand that they don´t want to give Nazis a platform for their ideology but by just prohibiting their signs and trying to keep it under wraps you won´t solve the problem. Especially if you want to show how liberal you are by not outlawing Nazi parties.

    Was this variant cover of CAPTAIN AMERICA 6 done for the german market ?

    And I think the whole approach to censorship has something to do with their past. In Spain for instance the censorship during the second World War emanated from Franco who imposed his belief system on the people. So when his regime ended people celebrated that they were allowed to curse ( the first time the s - word was used on tv was a big deal ) and ever since the people of Spain fight against any form of censorship or incursion on their civil rights.

    Now I don´t want to say that all people in Germany were happy under the Nazi regime. But I don´t think the idea that somebody has to decide what is good for people was so foreign to them. In the German populace the thinking of people being divided into the " Obrigkeit " and the peasants who have to do as they are told is still widely spread. When you speak to people here they sometimes don´t even see it as giving up a part of their civil rights. The idea that juvenile delinquency is primary caused by comics, videogames and movies seems to be a functioning part of Germany´s media brainwashing.

    So I hope I could clear some things up and if you still have questions drop me a comment or go straight to the fsk homepage / english version

    I want to wish all my readers from America a happy 4th of July even though it will probably be over by the time I finish this post and you can read it.

    Since Today´s topic was censorship in Germany here´s German band DIE ÄRZTE with a song about censorship ( that´s really the title ).

    New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest

    Captain America says the guy´s an Avenger.....then the guy´s an Avenger. The end.


    Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

    Well, being totally and utterly anti-Nazi and at one time being involved in the anti-Nazi league I have to say this sort of censorship is...well..Nazi-like!
    Some of my books DO have swastikas in them. On the final page of Special Globe Guard,Captain Tornado (a sort of British WW II super soldier) glares out of panel and a character asks what he's seen? "The most hated symbol in history -a bloody swastika" and cutr to the next page where you see the flag.
    As with other books via print on demand (I think for Germany the books are printed in France?) I will never NEVER ever censor that kind of thing. But as I never put a swastika on the covers who'd know there's one inside? You want to buy all my books to see if there are swastikas please do!
    German court wants to accuse me of spreading Nazi propaganda then let them and I'll give my families full anti-Nazi qualifications and tell them where they can shove them -and counter sue for violation of free speech under European law.
    Hey -I've no problem with more enemies!
    The point is you MUST show the symbols used by hated regimes but do they censor any images of Satan -the pure embodiement of evil?
    Believe me,in the 21st century the German government would need to really justify itself under European law and perhaps its time the Germans took the Spanish example and when it comes to censorship yelled out "NEIN!!!"

    Donna Barr said...

    Sigh. The old "Left-right = good-evil" canard again? It's actually "Left-right = male-female," as in yin/yang. But then let's not go into states of good/evil = male/female, shall we?

    I see we're all trying to let the Nazis win, again, by allowing them to keep the great sacred cross.

    I'm the author of "The Desert Peach," by the way. My German readers have emailed me since 9/11 with "Are you people CRAZY? Are you STUPID?"

    Well, of course we are. The American idea of German history is on the level of a Captain America comic book (pretty art, but not a lot of research). How could we know how the process actually started or prevent it if we're not even allowed to think about it?

    Now -- ta da -- the actual story of why the Nazis used the swastika: in the 19th century, the hooked cross was hugely popular, with everybody from English psychics, to Canadian sports teams, to Portland beer. German troops in WWI chalked it helmets and train cars as a good luck symbol to ward off bombs and bullets. So Hitler, as a veteran, used it to appeal to veterans.

    And no, the German people did NOT vote for Hitler. They voted for Hindenburg. Who then conveniently died. Hm... such timing.

    And you think WE have conspiracy theories?

    John Comic said...

    Why worry about this nutty revisionist censorship? I mean, it's only Germany, right?

    SUBZERO said...

    Best comment EVER !

    SUBZERO said...

    Okay, seriously now.

    First up Terry, sorry for mispelling your name. I have already corrected it, although I have to say - in my defense - I finished the post very late and I guess I was just too stupid to read your name from the cover of a comicbook.

    On this whole censorship thing, it is right that there is a fine line between allowing Nazi symbols to be shown and giving them a platform for their ideology. I mean you can just forbid it per se which is how most politicians solve problems in Germany.

    They make a new law and that´s it. Doesn´t matter if it makes sense or makes matters worse in the long run. Coming from a country like Spain that is strongly against censorship it always striked me as strange how things are handled here. Especially that laws that were made to protect the youth are put to practice on adults.

    In regards to comics and swastikas I think what should be done is firstly determine in each case IF a comic really has Nazi propaganda or if it´s clearly against them. That would have helped immensly in the case of MAUS and the Alpha Publishing Company wouldn´t have gone out of business.

    In the case of Captain America - as an example - you could argue that they are only used for showing historical facts ( and we need more of those in the book, really ) and by changing them you are not historical correct. They really should ask some comic experts before deciding.

    Now I also know that´s probably not going to happen because

    a - that would mean more work

    b - it would mean changing existing legislation without them benefitting

    c - politicians would use one of the reasons they always give for juvenile delinquency and they would have to adress the real reasons ( budget cuts in education, no role models for youths, bad prospects on the job market )

    I know there is no easy answer to the problem but just trying to blend it out is a dangerous thing in my opinion.

    SUBZERO said...

    Thanks Donna for schooling me on the secret origin of the Nazi swastika.

    I tried to find more info on it but couldn´t find it. Either it´s not on the net or I really should read those wikipedia entries more carefully.

    I also tried to find the exact paragraphs for depicting swastikas in comics or art but I couldn´t find it.

    As for the German people voting for Hitler you are right. Maybe I didn´t make that clear enough. They didn´t vote for him and like I said I don´t think all Germans were happy with the Nazi regime or subscribed to their ideology.

    But I think there was - and still is - the belief in a lot of people that the politicians ( or who ever is in charge ) are somehow more qualified to decide what they should see or think. People in Germany tend to forget that all authority of state comes from the people. It says right so in the German constitution. Alle Staatsmacht geht vom Volke aus.

    As for Hindenburg I´m not sure if he died or if he was died.

    Geier said...

    Hier ist das entsprechende Gesetz:
    Im Übrigen ist es auch verboten Variationen nationalsozialistischer Symbole zu verbreiten - in typisch deutschem Übereifer wurden deshalb die Danger Girls auf den Index gesetzt.

    SUBZERO said...

    Danke für den link, werd ihn in den Text einfügen.

    Ja richtig, Danger Girls hatte ja keine Hakenkreuze sondern diese Hammersymbole. Na das kann ja heiter werden.

    Anonymous said...

    I like your post and your ideas, but I would like to know more on this topic, as I do not totally share your opnion. "Opinions are made to be changed --or how is truth to be got at?"

    SUBZERO said...

    Well, you don´t have to TOTALLY share my opinion. I´m happy if we can agree on some points. After all, if we all thought alike where would be the fun in that ?