The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the industry’s voice for free speech advocacy and education, is proud to announce that 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. She joins new board officers Vice President Chris Powell, 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.”
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 graphic novel Fun Home 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.
CBLDF Board of Directors:
Christina Merkler, President
Christina Merkler co-founded a small internet based company with her husband Cameron out of their home in 1999. Now, nearly two decades later Discount Comic Book Service is an ever reaching empire that handles the direct sales for comic book publishers like Image and Boom! Studios, plus several online domains to maintain their own distinct online presence.
Check out Christina and Cameron’s Discount Comic Book Service online at www.DCBService.com, but don’t miss out on DCBS’ sister sites offer discounted trade paperbacks and hardcovers at www.InStockTrades.com and digital content at www.MyDigitalComics.com.
Chris Powell, Vice President
Working in the comics industry for more than 20 years, Chris Powell is now the Executive Director of Business Development for Diamond Comic Distributors. He was previously employed as the General Manager & CRO of Lone Star Comics / mycomicshop.com. Chris has served as the President of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and was a member of the Founding Board for ComicsPRO, the Direct Market comic retailers’ organization. He served on the Board of Moderators for the Game Pro Symposium, the Advisory Board for the Game Store Resource Forum, and helped launch the ComicsPRO Mentoring Forum for new and potential comics retailers. Chris wrote the column “Comic Sense” for Krause Publications’ Comic & Game Retailer magazine and presents regularly at industry panels geared toward retailers and fans.
Ted Adams, Treasurer
Ted Adams is the founder of IDW Media Holdings, which includes IDW’s publishing, games, and entertainment divisions. Adams was also the company’s CEO and Publisher for 19 years where he developed and oversaw the execution of IDWM’s strategic growth plans, including development of its key media properties, publishing titles, and licensing initiatives.
Since founding IDW Publishing in 1999, IDW has been awarded “Publisher of the Year” five times by Diamond Comic Distributors and dozens of Eisner and Harvey Awards. IDW titles have also been regularly featured on the New York Times Best Seller List.
Adams is the producer on a number of TV shows including Syfy’s Wynonna Earp, BBCA’s Dirk Gently, and the upcoming Netflix shows, V-Wars, October Faction, and Locke and Key. He has also written a number of comics, including the creator-owned Diablo House, drawn by Santi Perez.
Adams has an MBA from the University of Notre Dame and also sits on the board of Traveling Stories, a San Diego Based non-profit that helps kids fall in love with reading by Grade 4.
Dale Cendali, Secretary
Dale Cendali is a nationally recognized leader in the field of intellectual property. She is a partner in the prestigious law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, where she heads the firm’s Copyright, Trademark and Internet Practice Group. She has successfully litigated and tried numerous high profile cases and has argued before the United States Supreme Court. Her clients include myriad prominent individuals and companies who rely on her for her expertise in copyright, trademark, patent, Internet, trade secrets, defamation, false advertising, privacy and contractual matters. She has extensive experience representing clients in the entertainment, consumer products and technology sectors. Managing Intellectual Property Magazine named her trial victory for J.K. Rowling in the well-known “lexicon” fair use case the “Copyright Trial of the Year.”
Dale has been repeatedly ranked as a “top tier” lawyer for Chambers USA, which describes her as “one of the best lawyers in the country” in her field who combines” intellectual acuity” with a “tough hard working attitude”. The National Law Journal has named Dale as one of “America’s Top 50 Women Litigators” and also as one of the “50 Most Influential Women Lawyers in America.” Super Lawyers magazine named her as one of the top 100 lawyers in New York, and profiled her in the feature story titled, “Truth, Justice and the Cendali Way.”
As the title of the profile hints, when she is not trying cases, Dale is an avid comic book collector and fan and has been since she was five years old. She is a big believer in comics as an artform and is deeply committed to the arts since her days as President of the Yale Dramatic Association. Among her pro bono representations was the successful defense at trial of The Martha Graham Dance Center in a case that threatened the Graham legacy.
Dale writes prolifically on legal issues and has chaired numerous bar committees. She is also an adjunct professor at Harvard Law School, where she teaches copyright and trademark litigation.
She is a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School.
Jeff Abraham is president of Random House Publisher Services (RHPS), a division of Random House, Inc., the largest U.S. trade book publisher. RHPS is a leading provider of sales, distribution, digital and technology services to a broad portfolio of prominent independent publishers, including National Geographic Books, Rizzoli, Wizards of the Coast and many others. In the last few years RHPS has expanded its reach and established successful partnerships with Graphic Novel and Manga publishers, including DC Comics, Kodansha, Archie, and Vertical.
Mr. Abraham’s involvement in the publishing industry began in the mid 1990s as CEO & president of Optimedia, an electronic publishing solutions provider in the STM field, working with clients such as Oxford University Press, Elsevier Science and the American Medical Association. Drawing on his deep experience in IT and innovative business approaches, Abraham also served as Executive VP of Sales & Business Development for AirSphere, an aviation technology company. He continued using his experience in the publishing industry as the Executive Director of the Book Industry Study Group, a non-for-profit trade association dedicated to creating a more informed, empowered and efficient book industry supply chain for both physical and digital products.
Mr. Abraham is a graduate of the Leonard N. Stern School of Business at New York University.
Jennifer L. Holm
Jennifer L. Holm is a New York Times-bestselling children’s author and the recipient of three Newbery honors. Jennifer collaborates with her brother, Matthew Holm, on three graphic novel series—the Eisner-award winning Babymouse series, the bestselling Squish series, and My First Comics. Her new book is Babymouse: Miss Communication.
Director and producer Reginald Hudlin is a pioneer of the modern black film movement, helming some of the most influential films and TV series of his generation. His most recent efforts include directing the legal thriller “Marshall”, starring Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall, with Josh Gad, Kate Hudson and Sterling K. Brown. He also produced the revival of the series “Showtime At The Apollo” for Fox and produced the Civil War-era historical drama “Emperor”.
In February 2016, Hudlin was one of the producers of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ 88th Annual Academy Awards, for which he subsequently received an Emmy nomination in the category of Outstanding Special Class Program. Additionally, he has been the executive producer of the NAACP Image Awards for the past six years (2013-2018).
In 2012, he was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award as one of the producers of Quentin Tarantino’s Academy Award and Golden Globe-winning film “Django Unchained”, one of the top-grossing Westerns of all time.
In his more than 30-year career, Hudlin has written, directed and/or produced numerous popular feature films including “House Party” (1990), “Boomerang” (1992) and “Bebe’s Kids” (1992). Hudlin was also an executive producer and writer of the animated TV series “Black Panther” and executive producer of “The Boondocks”. Along with the original founding members, Hudlin revived the beloved comic book company Milestone Media.
As Black Entertainment Television’s first president of entertainment (2005-2009), Hudlin shepherded some of the networks biggest hits and revamped the network’s news division, which went on to win more than a dozen awards during that period.
Hudlin has been honored by The NAACP, The American Civil Liberties Union, The United Negro College Fund, The Sundance Film Festival, The American Film Institute, The San Diego Comic Con, The African American Film Critics Association, and many more organizations.
Hudlin is on the board of the UCLA School of Film, Television and Theater; The Board of Governors for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
A card-wielding CBLDF member since the late 1990s, Katherine Keller started working for University Libraries, UNLV in 1994 as a student worker and took a full-time staff position in 2000. Her duties for University Libraries have included public service on the reference and circulation desks, as well as behind-the-scenes positions in technical services. Currently, she works at UNLV’s Teacher Development & Resources Library, which works closely with UNLV’s College of Education. Her duties for the TDRL include outreach and instruction about graphic novels and comics.
Katherine’s rediscovery of comics back in 1992 lead to her 1997 marriage to Ralph Mathieu, owner of Las Vegas’s award-winning Alternate Reality Comics. In 1998 it led to her helping to found Sequential Tart, an independent webzine by women who love comics and pop culture.
In 2007, when the CBLDF needed help to pay for the defense of Gordon Lee, she organized a fundraising membership drive that raised $5,000. She followed this in 2008 with another appeal that raised over $2,000 to help in the defense of Christopher Handley.
In addition to the CBLDF’s board, Katherine is currently on the steering committee for the Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival, an event put on through the Clark County Library District as part of their effort to promote reading and literacy in Southern Nevada.
Paul Levitz was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1956, and entered the comics industry in 1971 as editor/publisher of The Comic Reader, the first mass-circulation fanzine devoted to comics news. He continued to publish TCR for three years, winning two consecutive annual Comic Art Fan Awards for Best Fanzine. His other fan activities included editing the program books for several of Phil Seuling’s legendary New York Comic Art Conventions. He received Comic-con International’s Inkpot Award in 2002 and the prestigious Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award in 2008. Levitz also serves on the board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
Levitz is primarily known for his work for DC Comics, where he has written most of their classic characters including the Justice Society, Superman in both comics and the newspaper strip, and an acclaimed run on The Legion of Super-Heroes, a series he’s recently returned to write. Readers of The Buyers’ Guide voted his Legion: The Great Darkness Saga one of the 20 best comic stories of the last century, and visitors to the site comicbookresources.comselected the same story as #11 of the Top 100 Comic Book Stories of All Time. Cumulatively, Levitz has written over 300 stories with sales of over 25 million copies, and translations into over 20 languages. As a DC staffer from 1973, Levitz was an assistant editor, the company’s youngest editor ever, and in a series of business capacities, became Executive Vice President & Publisher in 1989 and then served as President & Publisher from 2002-2009. He continues to contribute to their publications as a writer, as well as writing books about comics (Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel) and new comics most recently Brooklyn Blood).
Levitz also teaches Writing For Media at Manhattanville College; Comics & Graphic Novels and Transmedia in Pace University’s MS in Publishing program; Writing Graphic Novels at Pace and the American Graphic Novel at Columbia University.
Gene Luen Yang
Gene Luen Yang writes, and sometimes draws, comic books and graphic novels. As the Library of Congress’ fifth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, he advocates for the importance of reading, especially reading diversely. American Born Chinese, his first graphic novel from First Second Books, was a National Book Award finalist, as well as the winner of the Printz Award and an Eisner Award. His two-volume graphic novel Boxers & Saints won the L.A. Times Book Prize and was a National Book Award Finalist. His other works include Secret Coders (with Mike Holmes), The Shadow Hero (with Sonny Liew), New Super-Man from DC Comics (with various artists), and the Avatar: The Last Airbender series from Dark Horse Comics (with Gurihiru). In 2016, he was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. For more, visit www.geneyang.com.
About Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit organization protecting the freedom to read comics! Our work protects readers, creators, librarians, retailers, publishers, and educators who face the threat of censorship. We monitor legislation and challenge laws that would limit the First Amendment. We create resources that promote understanding of comics and the rights our community is guaranteed. Every day we publish news and information about censorship events as they happen. We are partners in the Kids’ Right to Read Project and Banned Books Week. Our expert legal team is available to respond to First Amendment emergencies at a moment’s notice. CBLDF is a lean organization that works hard to protect the rights on which our community depends. For more information, visit www.cbldf.org.