The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the industry's voice for free speech advocacy and education, just announced that retail giant Christina Merkler has been named President of the CBLDF by unanimous vote of its board of directors.
Merkler is the co-founder of Discount Comic Book Service, one of the nation's largest comic book retail companies, which she owns and operates with her husband, Cameron. She joins new board officers Vice President Chris Powell, who is a VP - Retailer Services at Diamond Comics Distributors; Treasurer Ted Adams, Founder of IDW; and longtime CBLDF Secretary Dale Cendali, Partner at Kirkland & Ellis.
"There's never been a more important time to protect the First Amendment rights of the comic book community," said Merkler. "As President, I look forward to working closely with the CBLDF board and the staff to continue the organization's important work in supporting comic book retailers, creators, educators and librarians whose First Amendment rights are being challenged."
The Fund has come under fire recently for not defending a group of cartoonists and other small press figures who are facing a defamation suit following allegations of sexual assault. The accused offender has filed suit against at least eleven defendants claiming that online discussion about the allegations and other talk about his private life and business practices has hurt him professionally. Rumor had it that the CBLDF was staying out of the case because it was not actually a comic which spawned the action.
One of Merkler's first acts was to reverse course -- somewhat. The Fund will advise the Small Press Expo, who are helping the defendants mount a legal defense fund of their own.
"We came together on a solution that makes the best use of the strengths of each of our organizations to support the members of our community in fighting this lawsuit. The SPX special fund will help by providing immediate cash, a structure for raising more money if required, and continuing access to experts that will help those in need," said Merkler.
For more than thirty years, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has protected the First Amendment rights of comics field and developed powerful education efforts in the service of the community. CBLDF has defended a wide range of cases in 2018, most recently, the Fund successfully protected the celebrated graphic novel Fun Home (basis for the stage show of the same name) in New Jersey.
Earlier this year, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and National Coalition Against Censorship released Be Heard!, a free comic book by cartoonist Kai Texel to help protect students' rights by helping kids assert their rights to speech, protest, assembly and petition, and providing resources to get more help. The organization recently announced a line of high profile variant covers with leading comic book publisher, Image Comics.
CBLDF's Board of Directors oversees CBLDF's mission protecting, preserving, and promoting the freedom to read comics. CBLDF's at-large directors are Jeff Abraham, Jennifer L. Holm, Reginald Hudlin, Katherine Keller, Paul Levitz, and Gene Luen Yang. Christina Merkler follows longtime CBLDF President Larry Marder, who retired from the board at San Diego Comic Con, along with Vice-President Milton Griepp, and board member Jeff Smith.