by Scott Pfeiffer

My stint working the graveyard shift at Copy Max, a copy-shop in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, has demanded that I duplicate all manner of art. The store is kind of a hub of creative production. Rockers, R&B bands, and rap poets create, duplicate, and post flyers for upcoming gigs; artists and photographers copy their work. I've run off some really beautiful stuff, several kinds of cheese cake, lotsa sick jokes and political statements (often these are one and the same). But when Michael C. Diana's zines, Boiled Angel #7 and #Ate, were plopped down by his Chicago publisher to be copied, they were the first artworks to almost create an in-store controversy.

Mike Diana is a 24-year old artist from Largo, Florida who, on March 25 in a Pinellas County court was convicted of three misdemeanor counts of distributing, publishing and advertising the obscene Boiled Angel.

The subject matter of his work was superficially circumscribed by expert witness for the prosecution Dr. Sidney Merin, Ph.D as "a variety of paraphilias including necrophilia and bestiality, pedophilia, sodomy, outrage, physical and psychological mutilation, terror, homosexuality, and pure violence." One Copy Max employee found the books sexist and refused to help duplicate them. "I'll copy them, no matter the content!" I trumpeted, like the true First Amendment soldier I am. That night I set out, to do just that.

I'll be honest here. Alone with Mike's drawings at the midnight hour, my initial reaction was, "The guy who drew this stuff, man, he's a pretty sick fuck." Comics such as the one about a woman who (after being brutally beaten, raped and drugged by a cannibal with a taste for children) unwittingly bakes her baby for her assailant's supper, were purposefully crude. However, his works showed a clever, creative mind and a skillful execution that, given encouragement and some direction, could develop.

I snuck glances at Boiled Angel as I worked to copy the books. Much of the material was cheap and tasteless. All of it had a solid basis in real incidents, such as priests buggering young boys. It was more shocking than the nightly news only because it left less to the imagination. Boiled Angel puts unpleasant societal problems right in your face, which is, after all, where they can be dealt with and solved. The zines finally have the impact of a syringe in your cola, or a mini-crown of thorns in your breakfast cereal.

Mike Diana is a working-class Southerner who today works at his dad's convenience store. Formative influences on the young Diana included a Sunday School teacher who would emotionally describe the torture of Jesus. This violence of the Bible affected him strongly, as did the news reports of child-molesting priests. As he grew up, he pursued a vision that mingled Christian symbols with sexual and violent imagery.

In 1990, Diana actually became a suspected serial murderer of University of Florida students when the Florida Department of Law Enforcement obtained a copy of Boiled Angel #6.

What happens next is perhaps predictable: Diana sells two copies of his publication to an undercover Pinellas County sheriff's deputy in 1991 and 1992. He is charged with three counts of violating obscenity laws. He is forced to take a stand for his art against Assistant State Attorney Stuart Baggish.

Reports paint prosecutor Baggish as an overzealous lawyer not really of a much higher caliber than (fellow Floridian and 2 Live Crew scourge) Jack Thompson. In prosecuting Diana, Baggish took advantage of the broadening of the three-pronged test for determining obscenity that resulted from the Supreme Court's ruling in the 1973 Miller vs. California case.

Only material that deals with sex can be proven obscene, and therefore, un-protected by the First Amendment. Miller vs. California allowed "community standards" to measure whether a piece of art (1) appeals to "prurient" (sick or morbid) interest in sex, and (2) in a manner that is patently offensive." Prior to the ruling, juries had to go by national standards. Further, since Miller vs. California, the state no longer must prove that a piece of art has absolutely no worth whatsoever, merely that (3) it lacks "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value." Baggish used this loosening of the law to win his conviction, playing off intolerant "community standards" against out-of-town experts for the defense such as FACT SHEET 5 publisher Seth Friedman.

Pinellas judge Walter Fullerton threw Diana in jail over the weekend to await his sentencing (which turned out to be three years probation), in the MAXIMUM SECURITY WING with no bond set. Among the requirements of his probation are that he pay $3,000 in fines, put in 8 hours of community service a week, get his head examined, and take a journalism ethics course. He is forbidden to have contact with children. And he must submit to unannounced searches to ensure he is drawing nothing unacceptable.

Our friend Mike Diana has been criminalized, and although his zine is the first ever to be put on trial for obscenity, it probably won't be the last. It could happen in your community. Organize your friends into an anti-censorship group so that you'll be ready to fight and act locally. Register and vote against pro-censorship sheriffs and judges. Soon you may find yourself fighting the government and its courts and prosecutors.

I'm happy to have had a hand in spreading this nasty "obscene" stuff around.

To get a sample of Diana's work, write or call: Michael Hunt Publications, Box 226, Bensenville, IL 60106. PH: 708-794-2723, FAX: 708-893-7797.

DONATIONS TO HELP APPEAL CAN BE SENT TO: The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Box 693, Northampton, MA 01601.

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