Book burnings are associated with Nazi Germany in the 1930s, as Hitler's propaganda infected the entire German population and any reading material not worthy of the Aryan vision was put to the torch.
The reality, however, is that book burnings continued in Canada and the United States through the 1950s. The mayor of Victoria called for the burning of all "subversive" books in the community in early 1954. That was a year after Ray Bradbury published his seminal novel Fahrenheit 451 in 1953, which featured a story about a society where books are outlawed and firefighters burn down houses with books inside them.
Bradbury, like many authors of the 1950s, was frightened by the prospects of censorship under McCarthyism and the anti-Communist fear of the day, so he wrote a passionate story about how limiting freedoms, particularly the freedoms of thought and expression, could irreparably damage democracy.
Bradbury would have been acutely aware of the post-war book burnings in North America because the fans of his books were also fans of the books being burned - comic books.
Kids were paid to turn in their comic books, where they were burned publicly at scouting events. This had the opposite effect of what frantic adults hoped, however - the kids just took the money and spent them on new comic books.
The Victoria mayor was reacting to Fredric Wertham's best-selling book of the day, Seduction of the Innocent, which claimed that comic books caused juvenile delinquency.
There is not one comic book among the books the Prince George Public Library has locked up at various locations around the city this week in recognition of Freedom To Read Week. Those books, which include The Bible, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Hunger Games and the first Harry Potter book, need local residents to "post bail" so they can be released.
They should have included at least one comic book. The library has a significant and growing collection of comic books and they could have drawn attention to the fact many of them are outright illegal if Prince George RCMP ever decided to enforce the "corrupting morals" clause of the Canadian Criminal Code. Section 163 (1) (b) reads that anyone who "makes, prints, publishes, distributes, sells or has in his possession for the purpose of publication, distribution or circulation a crime comic" is committing an offence.
Section 163 (7) says a crime comic is "a magazine, periodical or book that exclusively or substantially comprises matter depicting pictorially the commission of crimes, real or fictitious; or events connected with the commission of crimes, real or fictitious, whether occurring before or after the commission of the crime."
For some really "subversive" reading this week, pick up a comic book (or a graphic novel, if you must). Nothing says modern rebel like reading comic books.