Simpsons creator Matt Groening has apparently joined the advisory board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organization that’s basically an ACLU for funnybooks. According to its website, one of CBLDF’s missions includes providing “for the legal defense of individuals whose First Amendment rights are threatened for making, selling, or even reading comic books.”
It’s a change of pace for Groening, who’s usually the one playing legal offense.
In a semi-notorious incident in the mid 1990s, Groening sued the zine Bunnyhop over an unauthorized cover featuring his Life in Hell rabbit Binky punching the Trix Rabbit. Bunnyhop‘s publisher Noel Toletino, a big fan of Groening who had sent him the issue, talked about it with RE/Search Magazine:
Vale: Matt Groening’s lawyers demanded that you destroy the “Binky” issue and send proof of destruction, right?
NT: Not only that, they demanded that an apology be printed in a “prominent place” in the next issue of Bunnyhop, with text that had to be approved by them first! We ended up decapitating Binky’s head from the covers and mailing 300 of them in a bag to the lawyers. I wrote a cold, minimal apology–and anyone with a keen eye could recognize a little sarcasm in it. The whole experience was incredibly disheartening.
The kerfuffle led to Groening becoming something of a pariah in the zine scene. He defended himself to Mother Jones on the eve of Futurama‘s premiere:
I have a great deal of sympathy for the zine community and the First Amendment and I’m member of the ACLU and all that […] The problem, unfortunately, with the way things are set up — I have no problem with Bunnyhop, but if I don’t vigorously pursue my copyright then other people can steal it. I’m probably one of the most bootlegged cartoonists in the world. Unfortunately that’s the nature of the business — you have to vigorously pursue copyright infringement wherever you see it.
Also of note: there was a 1998 issue of Simpsons Comics that was essentially a big advertisement for CBLDF, with Homer and the Comic Book Guy getting into a wacky legal predicament. What has Batman ever done to protect the rights of comic book readers? [Digital Spy]