DES MOINES – The recent obscenity conviction of a manga collector on child porn possession charges has comic shops and readers running scared.
As reported last week by AVN.com, Iowa manga collector Christopher Handley pleaded guilty to importing and possessing the stylized comic books that included images of child sex abuse and bestiality.
Handley was arrested in May, 2006 when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) intercepted a package of manga comics, containing, the Fed said, "visual representations of the sexual abuse of children, specifically Japanese manga drawings of minor females being sexually abused by adult males and animals."
As Wired.com reports, the 39-year-old office worker is the first person to be convicted under the 2003 PROTECT act, which makes it illegal to buy or own "cartoons, drawings, sculptures or paintings depicting minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct," and also do not have “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”
Handley now faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
Comic fans and experts have said the case is not related to genuine child porn or preventing the sexual abuse of children.
“This art that this man possessed as part of a larger collection of manga, is now the basis for [a sentence] designed to protect children from abuse,” Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, told Wired.com. “The drawings are not obscene and are not tantamount to pornography. They are lines on paper.”
Handley's attorney, Eric Chase, added the federal act is "probably the only law I’m aware of, if a client shows me a book or magazine or movie, and asks me if this image is illegal, I can’t tell them."
According to Chase, Handley has collected all types of manga for years and this was just a small part of his collection. It was about owning every type and had nothing to do with sexual proclivities, the lawyer said.
Chase did not believe a jury would acquit Handley once the graphic images were viewed in court, so he advised his client to plea bargain.
The questionable comics fell into a category of "Lolicon,” a play on "Lolita," featuring young-looking girls in all manner of sexual activity, hardcore and beyond.
“This stuff is huge in Japan, in all of Asia,” said manga expert Frenchy Lunning, of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, who was a consultant in the case. She's adamant that Handley “is not a pedophile. He had no photographs of child pornography.”
Handley is free while a sentencing date is scheduled. Meanwhile, some comics shops randomly called around the country confirmed they are pulling certain titles from their adult-only section.
As DailyKos notes, because Japanese law forbids illustrations of pubic hair, there is no way to determine the age of a character in manga, adding that it is just a drawing, not a picture/photo of a real person.
In the wake of the Handley ruling the site commented, "anyone who reads any form of media that depicts any sort of sexual contact that involve minors, be it literature, comics, manga, film, television, music, theatre or otherwise is guilty of a crime punishable by 15 years of jail."
Now that manga has been targeted, one also has to wonder if porn anime will be next.
For more details on this case, please see Mark Kernes' AVN.com report.